Intrepid traveler, photographer and eater Uta Beyer -- a previous contributor to this blog (see here and here) -- has more on Mongolian cuisine following a recent visit to Mongolia. Here's what she writes about boortsog, the Mongolian national cookie:
"Well, over my years of travel, I have survived on bat in jungles of Borneo, nibbled on widgety grubs (giant Australian tree maggots) in the Australian outback, dined on cuy (guinea pig) in the Peruvian Andes and had seeminlgy endless meals of yak meat, butter and cheese in towns and villages in Tibet. But I think Mongolia might be the most challenging place of them all", says Julee on her travelogue mongolchine.blogspot.com.
True. And over my years of travel, I have rarely seen such a busy people as the Mongolian peasants. To my mind, people in Mongolia don't have much time to spend with sophisticated recipes. Not to mention rare ingredients. Thus, the diet is dominated by meat - in the winter - and dairy products - in the summer. Boortsog is a famous exception. It's the traditional deep fried, sweet, butter cookie. Boortsog can be found all over Central-Asia, with similar names: bauirsak (Kazakh), boorsok (Kyrgyz), bog'irsoq (Uzbek), and busrok (Tajik).
Boortsog are made by cutting flattened dough into pieces. The dough contains flour, water or milk, sugar, butter, sometimes yoghurt and yeast. Mongolians don't like salt much, but salt might be added. The shape can vary. Sometimes Boortsog is twisted and knotted. The dough is deep-fried golden brown. Mongolians may use left over mutton fat bullion for frying, but vegetable oil may be used as well.
Boortsog is the food that greets the visitor, that makes us feel home. It is offered in every yurt home when the traveler enters, together with tea or milk, and a silent, nirvanic countenance, that is hardly found anywhere in the West.