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Mongolian-Chinese in the US
Chinese Ethnic Minorities and Their Foods
Winter Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(4) pages: 10 to 12
The ‘hot pot,’ also known as the ‘fire pot,’ is usually
credited to the Mongolians. It is usually brass
with a central funnel filled with hot coals, has a
surrounding bowl with liquid where pieces of meat
and vegetables cook in the liquid in it, then enjoyed by
diners cooking their foods in it. Classically, it featured
lamb, cabbage, and other foods, usually eaten in Fall
and Winter, an eating experience some refer to as their
Chrysanthemum Hotpot meal. It is now enjoyed in
Beijing and other northern cities and their countryside
and wherever Mongolians live these days, the United
Mongolia is a land-locked country north of China and
south of the Soviet Union. It is six hundred and four
thousand square miles, and is the eighteenth largest
country by land mass in the world after
Iran. More than three million people are
its inhabitants, ninety-seven percent of
About twice the size of Texas, some
call it ‘the land of extremes’ because it
has no sea to moderate its climate and
little humidity. It has more than two
hundred fifty days of sunshine annually.
Others call it the ‘Land of Genghis Khan’
because he founded the Mongol Empire
in 1206. His son Kublai Khan founded
China’s Yuan Dynasty; and after the
death of his father, it was split into four
The capital of this country is Ulaanbaatar; it has a
population of about one and a half million people. This
city had Neolithic beginnings (circa 5500 BCE), and now
has twenty-one provinces. This capital city is an equal
political entity. Correctly called ‘Mongolian People’s
Republic,’ it was founded in 1928.
Most of its nomads live in gers once called yurts. Now
it does require twelve years of primary and secondary
education. Currently, sixty percent of its youth enroll in
college. This is the world’s oldest nomadic civilization
still herding their animals. They also mine many
minerals including but not limited to copper and tin,
and they extract lots of coal.
Their southern neighbor is Inner Mongolia, not a country
but a political jurisdiction of China correctly titled ‘Inner
Mongolian Autonomous Region.’ It has about twenty-five
million people, five percent are Kazakh, Russian,
and Korean, the rest are Mongolian Chinese whose
main diet is meat and milk, the meat from their sheep,
cattle, goats, camels, and horses. They eat them all, and
most like them roasted. Their milk they like dried, and
they call these curds aaruul. When eating out, they
often order chicken or fish.
These days, many more Mongolians live outside of
Mongolia; the United States one such place. Their
country gained independence from China in 1911 and ten
years later became a satellite of the Soviet Union. Then,
in 1990, it gained independence.
Mongolians who went to other countries came to
places where there were almost no nomads, no one
was seeking pasture for their animals as they had in
Mongolia whether Mongolians, Kalmyks, Buryats, and
others who did live there.
A good number of them also came to
the US from Inner Mongolia. Many did
go to work with Owen Lattimore on the
East Asian Affairs Program based at
John Hopkins University, not all living
there. Some came from Europe in the
early 1950s, others from Taiwan and
India, and still others came later after
the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union.
These Mongolian folk now number about
five thousand and are living in many
places in the US including Maryland,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York,
Delaware, West Virginia, Arizona, Texas,
New Mexico, California, and Illinois.
Most of them retain much of their heritage, many work
with American counterparts, their children attending
American schools. Some work for American TV and
radio, others for social media and all kinds of work places.
Most are slowly acculturating, some intermarrying non-
Mongolians, some not liking that they are slowly eroding
or abandoning their heritage.
Before and since coming to the US, many Mongolians
still use their lunar calendar, many still use the Chinese
zodiac, and some now practice Western arts such as oil
painting and metal sculpture, others writing poetry and
in other literary areas.
Except at special events, most wear Western-style
clothing, though some do wear a del, their long gownlike
item made of wool and a bright sash around their
waist. They also sport high boots and a fox-skinned hat
called a toortsog. Most are between the ages of eighteen
and thirty-five and did first come to the US for college or
graduate school. When ill, many still prefer Tibetan or
Mongolian doctors and many still use folk medicine.
Most Mongolian immigrants speak English and their
tribal language, a part of the Uralic-Altaic language
family. They write a phonetic Cyrillic script or one close
to Uighur; and more women than men try to preserve
their Mongolian culture in their foods and in life-cycle
events including marriage practices. Many of these are
related to Tibetan Buddhism, and they do so if they have
Their Mongolian food is retained especially during
holidays and at ceremonial events; they still drink lots of
tea with evaporated milk, butter, and nutmeg, or airag,
the fermented milk of their female horses. They like
nermel, their home-brewed vodka, tarag, their homemade
sour yogurt, and they use a lot of shar tos, their
melted butter mixed with curds, flour, and fruit. Many
also make bortsk, a cake baked with yeast and flour,
then fried in oil. They call that khuushuur.
They also make lots of buuz, their steamed dumplings
and snack on them any time of the day or night. For
main meals, they prefer their malchan, a boiled lamb
and onion dish with bulmuk, a flour-based gravy. Their
elders still drink tarag, a fermented milk. During their
‘white month’ celebrated at the start of the Lunar New
Year which is at the end of January or the beginning of
February, they make and eat many Mongolian foods as
they do on other less-celebrated holidays.
They do celebrate Urus-Ova during a week-end in
summer to honor Buddha, and Shagj-muni in the middle
of winter. They honor Chinggis Khan at the three-day
July Festival called Naadam, known in their language as
Eviin Gurban Naadam. At this holiday, they watch or
participate in horse racing, and in archery contests and
wrestling events. At this Mongolian celebration, they do
make and eat many of the above-mentioned foods.
Many Mongolians prefer living in Chinese-American
or Vietnamese-American communities where they do
know others who came to the US on student visas. They
maintain this comradery and now belong to Mongolian-
American Cultural Associations to continue it.
If you want to try their meat-milk-flour dependent
do prepare one or more of them below or try them at one
or more Mongolian restaurants. They are in many states
in the US. Look them up on the web or a local telephone
directory. Some are called as are those in Flushing NY,
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot; Little Lamb Restaurant;
or Happy Family Little Lamb Restaurant. There are these
and those known by other names in many of the states
they moved to. They like these dishes and their hot pots;
also check them out in this magazine’s index and in other
½ cup dried Chinese red beans
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup pastry flour
1 pound ground lamb
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 scallions, minced
½ cup minced celery and cilantro
2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 black mushrooms, soaked, stems discarded, then minced
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons flour
1. Mix both flours with two tablespoons boiling water
and knead until smooth, then cover and rest dough
for half an hour.
2. Mix lamb with the minced ginger, garlic, scallions,
celery, and cilantro, then add tablespoons of vegetable
oil, the salt, minced mushrooms, and cornstarch.
Then add two tablespoons boiling water and stir well,
and set this filling aside to rest for fifteen minutes.
3. Roll the dough into a rope forty inches long and
cut it into one-inch pieces. Roll each piece until thin,
about two and a half inches in diameter and dust each
one with a little flour before stacking them.
4. Next, fill each round with a tablespoon of the filling,
wet the edges very lightly, and pleat them shut, putting
them on a cookie sheet but not touching each other.
(These can be frozen until firm for later use, then put
in a six ml plastic bag, sealed and frozen) or boiled
immediately until they rise to the surface. Remove
them with a slotted spoon and tossed with the rest of
the oil and served.
same filling material as for the Buuz
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper substituted for the garlic
1/4 cup black vinegar
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
1. Mix filling as for the Buuz substituting black pepper
for the minced garlic, and refrigerate covered over
2. Make wrappers the same way as for the Buuz.
3. Use four tablespoons of boiling water and three more
of cool water kneading the dough and until smooth.
Then cover it with a towel and allow it to rest for half
an hour before cutting it into four pieces. Roll each
into a rectangle ten inches square.
4. On one piece of dough, add one-eighth of the filling
on half the dough and fold it over. Put another eighth
of the filling on half the now smaller rectangle, wet the
edges and pinch them closed. Repeat until all dough
and filling has been used providing four multi-layers
squares making four multi-layered squares, their edges
wet and pinched closed with a fork.
5. Heat a fry pan, add the oil, and gently fry as many
as fit on each side until golden brown; repeating with
those as yet not fried.
2 pounds boneless lamb, venison, or dark meat chicken, cut into two-inch thin strips
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Chinese white vinegar
3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce, divided in half
2 Tablespoons honey or maltose
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lard
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
5 scallions, coarsely minced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup soaked until soft, dried Chinese black mushrooms squeezed of their liquid, slivered
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1. Marinate meat with salt and pepper, vinegar, and half
the soy sauce for half an hour.
2. Mix other half of the soy sauce with honey or maltose,
the cornstarch, and three tablespoons cold water, and
set this aside.
3. Heat the lard and vegetable oil, add the scallion pieces
and the chopped onion and stir-fry until they are soft,
then add the meat mixture, and stir-fry until no longer
4. Then add the honey mixture and the mushrooms, and
continue to stir-fry for three minutes more.
5. Add the sesame seeds, toss quickly, and serve on a
|Mongolian Hot Pot|
½ pound beef fillet. Slivered
½ pound boneless pork cutlet. Slivered
1 whole boneless chicken breast, slivered
½ pound skinless and boneless white meat fish fillet
1 pound tiger shrimp, cut the long way then in half
5 ounces bamboo shoots, cut in half-inch strips
4 ounces snow peas, stings removed, cut in half the long way
1/4 cup baby corn, cut in half the long way
4 ounces canned straw mushrooms, cut in half the long way
½ firm bean curd, cut in long strips
2 ounces soaked rice noodles, cut in two-inch pieces
8 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
5 slices fresh ginger, slivers
2 stick celery, cut in two-inch pieces then slivered
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 scallions, cut in two-inch pieces then slivered
1 large bowl cooked rice, to be shared by all
1 egg, per person, if desired
1. Plate carefully all meat, fish, seafood, mushrooms, and
bean curd, and all other vegetables so diners can help
themselves. Adjust the amounts, above is intended for
four people. It can be doubled or divided, as needed.
2. Heat hot pot with coals or electricity, as designed, and
put the chicken stock and the bouillon cubes, the fresh
ginger slivers, celery, sesame oil, and the scallion slivers
in the ring, and when hot, seat diners with long-handled
forks and chopsticks for each person, and rice bowls,
and a n egg, if desired.
3. Bring ring with the stock to the boil and let diners
cook any foods on the platter to their desired doneness.
When all foods on the platter are consumed or as much
taken as desired, diners can break their egg into the
liquid or cook it in its shell, as desired, then eat it and
the stock, as they prefer.