Sunday, May 16, 2010

waiter, there's villi in my khuushuur!

In a moment of beautiful synchrony, my knowledge of anatomy and random ordering from a foreign menu came together. We realised belatedly that the khuushuur (meat pancake) we had ordered - the more expensive one mind you - contained makh. Literally 'meat', but more generally meaning sheep bits - all of them. Strangely enough the intestines and liver were ok. It was the globules of fat I couldn't quite stomach.

This use of all parts of the animal is not only not wasteful but has also been credited with preventing scurvy in Mongolians (not sure what level of evidence that is). Eating more fat is apparently more manly, and also necessary to survive the long winters.

We have been accepting of pretty much all dishes put before us, grateful for some decent protein-and-carbon sustenance in a country so recently struck by dzud. Imagine our joy when informed by our guesthouse host that a whole sheep had been brought in from the country. We were very lucky, as this dish was only prepared maybe 4 times a year: sheep intestines (?khonii giiz).

The smell of mutton in the ger was overpowering all afternoon, only drowned out by the smoke billowing from the stove when it was stoked. When the rubbery offerings were extracted from the pan, the assorted family and extras tucked in with an almost primal glee. After some hesitant staring, so did we. The taste was strong and fresh, with textures ranging from squidgy to impenetrable.

Anatomy identified in bowl: vertebra, pericardium, liver, lungs/bronchus, intestine (large and small).

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