A slight warning if you are squeamish you may want to skip this post as it contains some images of sheep body parts.
The final part of our Mongolian story is our home stay with a Mongolian nomadic family. Although I say homestay we didn’t actually stay in the ger with them, there wouldn’t exactly have been room for our entire group, so we were sleeping in tents nearby to their ger.
They did however welcome us into their home to see how they lived, their family, neighbours and extended family and of course a very young goat kid. I am pretty sure the kid was not a pet, but being that it was little and still very cute it was picked up and treated like the family pet.
That night we were to have a traditional Mongolian barbecue, so our guide bought a sheep from the family. The father and son from the family went off somewhere on a motor bike and none of us thought much of it at the time, but the next thing we knew they were returning with a sheep on the motorbike with them and we realised that must be the sheep for dinner.
The sheep had been alive when it arrived on the motor bike and I think the rain had come on or something, anyway for some reason we had all been in the ger when it was slaughtered and butchered so we didn’t see it and if I am completely honest I was quite happy about that. I have no illusions as to where my meat comes from, but I don’t want to have to watch it being killed either.
Our drivers actually barbecued the meat, as they had been taught to do by their fathers. The barbecue is a proud Mongolian tradition, which is passed down through the generations, however living in the city and given that barbeques only occur on special occasions it is not often practiced.
The barbecue itself was actually very different from what we think of in the uk. There is a wood stove which is set up at first with a fierce fire and some stones inside. Meanwhile the meat and vegetables are prepped (we helped with pealing some potatoes and carrots). During this time as well the wool was also burned from the head of the sheep with a blow torch.
The head was added to a massive pot of water along with other fatty cuts of the sheep. The pot was placed on top of the stove to boil which would eventually form a stock soup at the end.
Once this had been boiling for some time the drivers took it off the stove, which they then opened up. They put layers in the pot on top of this soupy base, first of stones from the stove, then meat, salt and onions and on the final layer they put the vegetables. The pot was then sealed with a lid and placed back on top of the stove.
During the preparation of the barbecue we noticed several birds of prey beginning to circle as they had obviously spotted the fresh meat, we were informed they were a type of kite, but I am not sure which.
While the meat was cooking the mother of the herder family started milking some of their cows which we would later see her turning into butter and using the remainder to make curd.
We started to feel the weather changing so we changed into warmer clothes and retreated into the ger. Where my husband decided to try his hand at churning some of the more progressed curd.
The drivers brought in the pot when it was finished cooking. I must admit that the meat was not to my taste, it was on the tough side and very fatty, but it was obviously a local favourite and my husband quite enjoyed it. The vegetables cooked with the meat however were a different story, they had been flavoured by the meat and were really tender and tastie.
Because this was a special occasion, it was not just ourselves and the host family, the neighbouring family and the sister of the mother of our host family’s family all joined in. You could tell what a treat this was by the sisters two year old son (who we had all thought was a girl) when he was brought in he went streight for a big fatty bit of meat and started gnawing on it with glee.
No Mongolian celebration would be complete without some vodka. It was my first taste of Mongolian vodka and we had Chinggis Khan vodka that night. I have to say it was good quality and I very much enjoyed it, perhaps too much as the rest of the group noticed. To be fair it was cold and the rest of our group had been having beer at pretty much every other meal and I don’t like beer.
The boy from our host family was a big hit with everyone especially when he started trying to teach us Mongolian using the knuckle bone game we had learned from our guide earlier in the trip.
After much fun was had it was time for bed, by this time it was pretty cold and windy and our tents didn’t seem the most appealing prospect, but we went anyway. The worst storm we had in our entire time in Mongolia hit that night. Luckily my husband used to be in the scouts and always follows the motto of being prepared, so our tent was fully guyed out. Although the noise of the wind and the rain was terrible and kept me up most of the night we didn’t have the problem that most of the rest of the group did where the tent was blowing into their faces all night.
The next morning when we got up most of us went for a long walk in different directions, due to the lack of toilet facilities. Returning we packed up the tents into the vans. Eventually we headed to the ger for breakfast, where our guide was very kindly making us some scrambled egg and there was bread and jam. We got to try the home-made butter from the night before on our bread, which was very creamy and we were also served some salted tea, which I really enjoyed as the salt was not strong and just complemented the flavour.
My husband had decided to make the boy from our host family a paracord bracelet during the night as during the evening he had shown a lot of interest in the ones that my husband wears. So he sat with the boy and showed him the process even teaching him how to tie the knots. The boy was fascinated giving me further proof that my husband is much better with children than I could hope to be.
Eventually the time drew near to leave, so we said our goodbyes and gave our thanks to the families for their hospitality.
I am afraid that this particular blog does not do justice to this experience as it really is one of those things where you really need to have the experience to appreciate it, but perhaps I have whetted your appetite to the idea of a home stay on your next adventure.