This month we stop in Mongolia. Mongolia is a landlocked country in east-central Asia. It is bordered by Russia and China. The capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar. Ulaanbaatar is home to about 45% of the population of Mongolia. Mongolia’s government is a parliamentary republic. It has a long history of being ruled by nomadic empires. In 1206 Genghis Khan established the Mongol Empire. At one point the Mongol Empire controlled China as well.  Mongolia is the 19th largest country and the most sparsely populated country in the world. It is home to around 2.9 million people. About 30% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. The country contains very little arable land. It is mostly covered by a steppe with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.

One of the most fascinating parts of life in Mongolia is the nomads homes: gers or yurts (Russian name). These round homes are made from wooden frames and wool felt coverings. They can be taken down quickly and set up quickly. The nomads move up to twenty times a year. In the summer the nomadic population on the steppe must move often to provide their animals with grass for food.

Mongolian Yurt By Krokus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The life on the steppe is a hard one. Most families live in one ger which is one room. They raise animals such as horses, goats and sheep. Most get around by horse. The tame the wild Mongolian Horses that live on the steppe. Many families have motorbikes and a few have trucks, but gas is hard to come by and very expensive. One festival that gathers the families together is the Naadam which is a horse race. The young boys of the nomadic families ride a half-trained horse. The Mongolian horses build makes sitting in the saddle uncomfortable, so most riders stand in the bridles.

Mongolian Horses By Taylor Weidman/The Vanishing Cultures Project (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

A Race During Naadam By Jani Kajala ( [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The beverage of choice among adults is airag. Airag is fermented mare milk. It is often offered to a guest upon entering a jer. By the way, if you are visiting a jer on the steppe, they do not knock and consider it rude to lock the doors. They are very hospitable. The children have the jobs of milking the animals. During the summer the children are home from their boarding schools and help with the chores. They often are given the jobs of driving the animals to the pastures and watering the horses as well. The next job is to help make the airag. A crank must be turned at least 1000 times for the fermentation process to begin. In the summers the mares are  milked every two hours and the new milk is added throughout the day.

Mongolian Noodle Dish By Brücke-Osteuropa (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cuisine in Mongolia consists of dairy and meats of animals. There are not many fruits and vegetables due to the little amount of the arable land. Some popular dishes include buuz, steamed dumplings, and lapsha, a simple noodle dish. A delicious sounding dessert is boortsog, deep fried butter cookies. There are some recipes on-line. The sites I found are e-Mongol and Mongolian Recipes.

Mongolian Dress and Musical Instruments By Andrew Russeth from New York, New York (Flickr Uploaded by clusternote) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

With such a vast history and different lifestyle that has not changed much over the centuries there are so many different things to focus on when looking at Mongolia. There are movies that show life on the steppe like the Animated Tales of the World: Mongolia: Shepherd Boy Tumur and Mongolian Ping Pong. We did not watch all of Mongolian Ping Pong since it had subtitles and my daughter cannot read yet. However the small amount we watched showed us the land and views of the steppe as well as a bit about life there. The premise of the film is that a young boy finds a ping pong ball in the stream and they try to figure out what it is.

nonfiction Mongolia Collage

We also found some stories that are about people and festivals of Mongolia as well as a few stories and picture books to understand the life in Mongolia. I have included a few books for older children as well which we did not read.

stories and people Collage

The sources for this post are the books and movies pictured above as well as Wikipedia.

Now it is time to explore Mongolia with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Mongolian recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Mongolian placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Mongolia.

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7 responses »

  1. Melody Pekarek Ambler says:

    Hi! I love your website, and was wondering if there is any way I can pin your articles and recipes. Thank you so much!! Melody

  2. Mongolian culture is so fascinating! I can’t even imagine the stamina + discipline it must take to keep up a good store of the fermented mare milk.

  3. […] Learning about Mongolia  […]

  4. […] project Around the World in 12 Dishes introduces your children to the culture of different countries through their food. I learned about […]

  5. […] time we travel to Mongolia, and while we do have a dish to share with you soon, I first wanted to write about our Mongolia […]

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