Real Mongolian Barbecue

There are no fast food restaurants in Ulan Batar.

Our driver, a native Mongolian, took us to what he said was the original Mongolian Barbecue. I looked at the menu, most of which I didn’t understand. Some of the dishes had English translations next to the Mongolian. My choices, among many others:

Rendeers wigwam

Baked Sheep Head

Ox Tongue

Fried Ox Tongue

Horse Meat Assortments

Fried Liver

Mongolian Khuushuur stuffed with mutton

We ordered an assortment of dishes to share. When they brought the baked sheep head, our Mongolian friend looked rather anxious. He waited for me to go first. I wasn’t sure I was hungry anymore. The sheep was sitting in the serving tray staring at me–literally.

“Do you want the eyes?” He asked. “Or the brain?”

“No thanks. It’s all yours.”

With gratitude and zeal, our friend speared the eyeballs from the sheep. Then, he lifted the skull from the sheep’s head and scooped out the brains.

I went for the Khuushuur. It seemed safest.

As we ate, and shared stories, I began to forget our differences. I began to relax and enjoy a culture I knew so very little about. I began to appreciate the food which had a very different, yet pleasing taste–that is–until I looked–again–at the eyeless sheep staring back at me.