I was all set for my journey to Mongolia, but after becoming vegan seven years ago, I planned to have few options in a country where meat is a staple. Before my trip, I stocked up on canned black beans, hardy German Mestemacher bread, nutritional nut bars, and jam. I packed my “emergency stash” in case no options were available.
Once I arrived in Ulaanbaatar, I noticed that most hotels, such as the Best Western Premier, offered lovely Thai-inspired cuisine (mixed vegetables in a red coconut curry sauce). I also uncovered seven Loving Hut restaurants throughout Ulaanbaatar. My favorite is located opposite the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum, since they served a variety of popular cuisines from around the world. Loving Hut is a strictly vegan restaurant chain founded by Ching Hai, a prominent spiritual leader and entrepreneur.
Once I reached the isolated corners of Western Mongolia, I quickly realized, and was pleasantly surprised, at Nomadic Expeditions’ readiness in terms of providing travelers with meatless and dairy-free meals, as well as their conscientiousness with regard to how the meals were prepared (using vegetable oil rather than conventional butter or worse, lard). At the ger camp, breakfast was simple but left me quite content with a variety of breads, jams, and hot tea. For lunch, I was served roasted potatoes cooked with mixed vegetables. I got by with the same food items for lunch and dinner, but since the portions were large, I did not go hungry.
While exploring central Mongolia, I visited one of my favorite locations made famous by the Przewalski horses, Hustain Nuruu. Here, I enjoyed a buffet- style lunch that consisted of a seaweed salad prepared in a savory, garlic sauce, tofu, red beans, aromatic white rice, hardy beans and vegetables infused in a juicy tomato sauce. A side of crunchy apples wedges, lightly coated with juice derived from the apples red skin served as a light dessert. Throughout the countryside, the most common vegetables I ate were a medley of peppers, carrots, onions, potatoes, and mushrooms.
If you’re vegan and traveling to Mongolia, my suggestion is to bring snacks and seek out some vegetarian/vegan restaurants for some variation while staying in Ulaanbaatar. You should let your travel professional know before you arrive, so that they can inform your guide and chef ahead of time, ensuring a sufficient bulk of vegetable and grain provisions upon your arrival. I had an unforgettable, moving, experience in Mongolia as well as answering people’s questions as to what it means to be vegan, why I became vegan and the question no one fails to ask regardless of their country of origin, “Where do I get my protein?” The Mongolian people were genuinely curious and wanted to understand the vegan way of life, without judgment or criticism. It is a new concept in a country with age-old traditions; however, vegetarianism and veganism continues to blossom and flourish in this country of Buddhist faith. As the Loving Hut slogan says, ‘Be Vegan, Make Peace.”