Jul 8, 2015

Mongolia (Part 2): Modern Nomads - Local delights & dishes

When I was at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, I found that there were no shortage of food choices, options, and selections. There were many different restaurants selling Chinese, French, Indian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Uzbekistan, Western, and many more.

I recalled the saying,
"When in Rome, do what the Romans do"

Modern Nomads Western and Mongolian Menus
Modern Nomads Western & Mongolian Menus
National Museum of Mongolia History
National Museum of Mongolia History

Hence since I was in Mongolia, I tried to seek out Mongolian food, dishes and delicacies. I started searching the Internet and via TripAdvisor saw a bunch of reviews about this chain of restaurants called "Modern Nomads". It has its fair share of positive and negative reviews but I usually consider these reviews with a pinch of salt.

My first experience with it was after spending an afternoon at the afternoon at the National Museum of Mongolia History (I'll write about this attraction later). Base on TripAdvisor, there was a Modern Nomads (Branch #1: location here) 600 meters towards the north of the museum. However on the way towards the first branch, I stumble upon the third branch.

Modern Nomads (Branch #3: location here).

Modern Nomads - Restaurant #3
Modern Nomads - Restaurant #3
17 June 2015. The waiter & waitress there could understand simple English. The drinks and food menus were printed in both local and English language.

This chain serve both Western dishes and local Mongolia dishes. As I was looking to taste the local dishes, I placed the Western Menu aside and started previewing the Mongolia Menu (click on the photographs to enlarge the image).

Modern Nomads - Soups selection
Modern Nomads  - Soups selection
Modern Nomads - Mains dishes
Modern Nomads - Mains dishes

For a main dish, the 'Stir Fried Vitals' - stir fried lamb livers, kidneys, lungs, hearts and tripes flavoured with onions served with vegetables caught my eye due to the array of colours and the potential variety of taste texture I could experience. As it has been a chilly day outside, I decided to order a soup, 'Mongolian Noodle Soup with Lumb Vital Mixs' - it is traditionally favourite lamb five vital soup cooked with homemade noodles. I saw on a food television program that Mongolia was also famous for its milk from cattle, and goats. So I ordered a 'Hot Light Milk' - I did not ask whether it was from a cow or goat ;-)

A short moment of taking my order, I was served an appetiser and my hot light milk. The waitress returned shortly to inform me that the main dish that I ordered was not available so I had to change my order to 'Tsuivan With Pork' - it is Mongolian traditional noodle with stir fry pork and sweet peppers.

Appetiser, hot milk and wet towel
Appetiser, hot milk (Price: MNT 1,500) and wet towel. 
Appetiser - Fried dough
Appetiser - fried dough, cross section
Mongolian Noodle Soup with Lumb Vital Mixs
Mongolian Noodle Soup with Lumb Vital Mixs (Price: 7,500)
Mongolian Noodle Soup with Lumb Vital Mixs - content
Mongolian Noodle Soup with Lumb Vital Mixs - content
Tsuivan With Pork
Tsuivan With Pork (Price: MNT 11,900)
Unfinished portions of food.
The portions were quite large - leftovers

The Taste
The appetizer reminded me of the Chinese Yau Char Kway (Chinese Cruller), it was more dense then Chinese Crullers. At this point in time I was thinking if I had a cup of hot coffee to dunk it in; it would have been fabulous.

The Hot Light Milk had a mild salty taste to it, it was not as thick or rich as full cream milk (I guess hence the name 'light'). It was nice given the cool weather of between 12 - 18 decrees Celsius outside.

The Mongolian Noodle Soup with Lumb Vital Mixs was somewhat interesting. The noodle were is large strips form and the blackish substance felt like a blended mix lamb organs. The texture was soft and felt like I was eating mashed tofu. The soup was light as felt like some of the oil from skimmed off - unlike the mutton soup or 'sup kambing' we usually have at home in Malaysia.

The bill at Modern Nomad 3
The bill at Modern Nomad 3, came up to 
MNT 20,900 (approximately USD 11)
Finally the Tsuivan With Pork, this this was simple and was as described. I must have been hungry because I was eating it up quite quickly. It has a mild taste with a hint of pepper and mildly season with salt. This dish needed to be eaten while it was hot, as it was cooling down I felt the noodles were become hard and rubbery.

The underestimated the size of the portions here in Mongolia and in the end I was not able to finish up everything as shown above with the leftovers. The bill came up to be MNT 20,900 including 10% Value Added Tax (VAT) - this works out to be approximately United States Dollar (USD) 11 or Ringgit Malaysia (RM) 40.

Modern Nomads (Branch #2: location here)
18 June 2015, our second experience with Modern Nomads. Being a bit wiser with the size of the portions, my partner and I decided to just order two items; a soup and a main to share between us. The soup was called 'Drover Soup' - Traditional lamb soup with dumplings and grilled lamb and for a main dish, the 'Stir Fried Vitals' - stir fried lamb livers, kidneys, lungs, hearts and tripes flavoured with onions served with vegetables.

Modern Nomads 2 menu - Soup section
Modern Nomads menu - soup section
Modern Nomads 2 menu - main dish section
Modern Nomads menu - main dish section

The service here was a bit slower (than Modern Nomad 3). It took approximately 15 mins for the drinks and appetiser to be served and subsequently another 20 minutes for the soup and main.

Modern Nomads 2 - Appetizer
Modern Nomads - Appetizer 
Modern Nomads 2 - Drinks
Modern Nomads - Hot Milk with Honey (Price: MNT 2,500) and  Schweppes Soda Water (Price: MNT 3,500)
Modern Nomads 2 - Drover Soup
Modern Nomads - Drover Soup (Price: MNT 7,900)
Modern Nomads 2 - Stir Fried Vitals
Modern Nomads - Stir Fried Vitals (Price: MNT 9,900)

The Taste (again)
The bill at Modern Nomad #2
The bill at Modern Nomad #2,
came up to MNT 23,800
(approximately USD 12)
The 'Drover Soup' was clear served with six dumplings - the dumpling's filling was a simple mixture of minced beef and some vegetables. The grill (lamb) rib was tender and it added a some of flavour to the soup.

The main dish of  'Stir Fried Vitals' was what I had imagined, a variety of textures of various meats. It was served on a hot plate so the meats remained hot till we finished every bite.

The combined portion of this two dishes was sufficient to satisfied my partner's & my hungry bellies. The bill came up to MNT 23,800 (inclusive of 10% VAT), this works out to be approximately USD 12 or RM 46.

The Decoration
The interior decoration of both branches varied.

Modern Nomad 3 had a more traditional feel with the walls decorated with patterns printed on fabric as well as real paintings. 

Modern Nomad 2 used printed wall papers. The tables and chairs here were more modern and overall feel was more towards being a modern cafe.

Interior of Modern Nomad branch #3
Interior of Modern Nomad branch #3
Interior of Modern Nomad branch #2
Interior of Modern Nomad branch #2

Just A Thought Ah
As this was our first taste of Mongolian local delights and dishes, we felt the general taste was towards our liking - it had some similarities to Chinese dishes and cooking style. Price wise was a bit on the high side however at the time we did not have a means to compare as this was the only chain of restaurants we went to try Mongolia dishes.

It was later when we went for a day tour to Terelj National Park that our guide informed us that Modern Nomads were very commercialised, more to cater to tourist, and not the first choice for the locals. This was the second location where we had some local dishes.

Nevertheless, we truly enjoyed our eating experience.

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