Mongolia Rocks!

Alright, who’s ready for some Mongolian main course meals? When we first started researching all we really knew of Mongolian food was that we’d eaten at BD’s Mongolian Grill and had heard of Mongolian Beef. Well, it turns out that the food served at the Mongolian Grill isn’t really Mongolian at all. In fact, here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Although one such locale, BD’s Mongolian Grill, has opened even in Ulaanbaatar (ironically the first American chain to open in Mongolia), neither the ingredients nor the cooking method has anything in common with Mongolian cuisine. Rather, they are inspired by the Japanese teppanyaki.

And as for Mongolian Beef, well that has its origins in American Chinese cooking and is also not Mongolian. So we had to do some more digging. Mongolian diets rely heavily on meat – particularly from domesticated animals. As much as we try to keep true to the local traditions, we weren’t about to eat horse, yak or camel, so we opted for the next best thing – lamb, which is also a common meal. There are several ways to cook lamb, one we’ll explore later in the week, but by far the most interesting one to us was the traditional Mongolian Khorkhog (pronounced “horhog”). We knew that we had to give this a try. 

We began the recipe with smooth rocks. Ocean rocks in our case. (It helps that we have a rock collector in the house. Thanks Mr. N!)

We got the rocks super hot by cooking them on the grill over really hot charcoal, a campfire would work as well.

While the rocks cooked for an hour, we readied our seasonings including onion, garlic, salt and pepper.

We then cut our lamb chops while leaving it attached to the bone.

After seasoning the lamb with the salt and pepper we headed out to check on the rocks. We placed the smaller, very hot rocks, in the base of our wok.

We then tossed the seasoned lamb chops over the rocks,

followed by our onions, garlic, lemons (which we added to the recipe for good measure) and a few more rocks.

Next we poured in some white wine, honey and water – enough to cover the meat.

We covered the wok, securing the lid tightly, and placed it on the grill.

The lamb steams in the wok for between an hour to two hours, depending on when the meat reaches the desired level of doneness. Ours steamed for about an hour and 45 minutes. Just look at the steam that was swirling around in there!

We served our lamb chops with some crusty French bread to sop up some of the broth created by the cooking process. You could also serve this over white rice if desired.

Now here’s how I expected things to go based on our past experiences with lamb, I figured Mr. N and Mike would love this. They have devoured our other lamb recipes. I also didn’t expect Miss A and I to be very keen on it as we’re not big into the strong flavor of lamb. Well, you can probably guess that things didn’t quite go as planned.

Mike and Mr. N were not overly impressed by the meal. Mr. N was more fascinated by the fact that his rocks had changed color. Most of them became dark black, except for the yellow rock which turned a deep red. Mike felt the texture was right on, it was cooked well, but a bit too bland. Mr. N felt the same way. It was 2-1/2 spoons for both of them. They did, however, really enjoy the broth with the bread. That wasn’t too bland.

Now I have to admit, while I was totally looking forward to cooking this meal (which almost didn’t happen with the thunderstorms we had nearly all day), I wasn’t very excited about eating lamb again. It usually is just too strong and funky of a flavor for me. The khorkhog actually surprised me though. I didn’t find the flavor to be overly funky (how’s that for a descriptor) and it was fall off the bone good. It earned a surprising 3 spoons from me.

So how about Miss A? She’s been rather picky as of late – well, excepting dessert recipes. Would you believe that Miss A doled out 602 spoons for this meal? Yep. She’s gotten a bit crazy with her spoons lately too. In all seriousness though, this one was a definite 4 spoon dish for her. She ate all of her lamb and some of mine! Who would have thought.

As for the rocks, well, we passed those around before the meal as is part of the Mongolian tradition. It is said to bring peace and reduce stress, and I have to say, it was very soothing. It also brought a bit of humor to the table as Miss A held her rock and said, “But it’s not soft yet. How am I supposed to eat it?” The three of us, especially Mr. N, got a pretty big kick out of that one.

So there you have our version of the Mongolian Khorkhog adapted for cooking at home. It was so much fun and an experience none of us will ever forget. I mean we certainly never expected to be grilling rocks and then tossing food over them. It was a great recipe to make with the kids, and actually very easy when it came down to it. Let’s just hope the next Mongolian recipe goes as smoothly. We’ll be back Saturday to share it with you.

In the meantime, if you would like to leave a comment (we love them!), and don’t want to receive emails every time someone else leaves a comment, don’t forget to uncheck the follow comments button that WordPress has now automatically checked for you. Have a great week!

49 thoughts on “Mongolia Rocks!

  1. broadriver33 says:

    I was quite enthused by your attempt and feel challenged to try to cook the same meal..I have a friend and fellow student from Mongolia and i would love to try to honor his culture by trying this..but where did you find the rocks and what kind did you use!

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    • Kristy says:

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Best of luck if you try the recipe. We had a great time with our attempt. We used rocks that my son had collected. I’m not sure if these were from a lake or an ocean, but they were large, had a good size surface area and were very smooth. Have fun with it! 🙂

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  2. Three Well Beings says:

    What a wonderful dish! I think the experience of cooking this dish would be worth at least one attempt! Miss A’s comment about the not-yet-edible rocks is just adorable! I’m on the fence with lamb. I used to eat it, and then somewhere along the way I developed a reluctance to the strong taste. Members of my family love it, and I admit that when it’s cooking I like the aroma. I might have to seriously think about bookmarking this one! 🙂 Debra

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    • Kristy says:

      I’m with you Debra. I like the aroma, but the taste is just not for me. But based on all the comments, I think I’m going to have to hold out for a good cut of lamb before I rule it out all together. The experience was definitely fun, and I did come across some vegetarian versions of the recipe. They just weren’t as authentic as the lamb. 😉

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  3. Dawn says:

    I never really liked lamb until I had really GOOD lamb, and it didn’t have that funky flavor. Now I find unless I pay top dollar (or I am in France :)) at Whole Foods, the lamb is just not good. I absolutely LOVE delicious good quality lamb, it is like eating a wonderful and tender steak. Thanks for sending the reminder on the comments!! You sure do get a lot, they filled my inbox last time :).

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    • Kristy says:

      I’m going to have to try Whole Foods lamb. I do love the aroma, it’s just that funkiness that it can have. I’m definitely open to trying a good cut though. 🙂

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  4. Norma Chang says:

    I am not a fan of lamb either. Just curious, why did you use a wok instead of a pot? Is wok used in Mongolian kitchen?
    The lessons your kids are learning, how wonderful.

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    • Kristy says:

      They actually use a metal milk jug or a large metal pot in the Mongolian recipes. I figured the wok would work just as well – especially since we were cooking for four versus an entire picnic full of people. 🙂

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  5. A_Boleyn says:

    You really go that extra mile to make your recipes as authentic as possible … cooking over hot rocks. 🙂 I’m impressed even if the results weren’t universally enjoyed.

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  6. Charles says:

    “It is said to bring peace and reduce stress” – I would have thought clasping a red-hot rock in your hands would be anything *but* conducive to a peaceful pre-meal ceremony, but I’m guessing the rocks were cooled first, right? 😀

    I absolutely love lamb – I don’t often cook with it because it’s expensive as hell in France… they sell these stupid little cutlets which have, I kid you not, one bite of meat on them. You can buy a pack of 4 for about €7 or something insane. It’s not as common either in general, so when I sometimes see other cuts of meat I’m filled with happiness. It’s not that popular in Sweden either. People there say it tastes like “kofta”, which I didn’t understand at first, since a kofta is like a meat-ball type thing in English. What I didn’t know was that “kofta” in Swedish actually means “cardigan”… LOL!

    Anyway – to the dish… A truly different dish… I’ve never seen anything cooked with rocks in a pan before… Someone mentioned the rocks making the meat more tender… I wonder if that’s the case? I can see that maybe the dish wasn’t strongly flavoured as Mr. N and Mike pointed out, but I think I’d have loved it anyway – good flavours, great ingredients… my kind of stuff to be honest, and all that wonderful onion… mmmmm!

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    • Kristy says:

      LOL – the rocks were hot, but not scorching when we passed them around. The kids loved it. They kept asking for more rocks as theirs cooled. 🙂 And “kofta” – I love it! I suppose cardigans would have a rather funky taste too. And I think with some more seasonings, the boys would have loved it. Have a great weekend Charles!

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  7. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    Peace and tension release… hmmm, that sounds about right. I need me some Mongolian rocks ;-).

    And what a cool cooking method – we’ve certainly never grilled over rocks on the bbq before but it definitely gives me ideas…

    I love that Mr N was more fascinated by his rocks changing color than the meal ;-).

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    • Kristy says:

      It was like a hot stone massage for your hands. 🙂 I’d love to see the ideas you guys come up with for grilling with rocks. I love Mr. N’s fascinations too. He’s such a curious and intuitive little guy. 😉

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  8. Caroline says:

    What a unique way to cook the meat. I have to try this sometime. Even though it wasn’t as delicious as you’d hoped, at least the preparation looked fun–more so because the thunderstorms stopped! The lamb looks so tender and juicy. Mmmm!

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    • Kristy says:

      I think the dish could easily be improved with some additional seasonings. Mongolian cooking doesn’t use many – mostly salt and pepper. So I think a bit more creativity and this would have won the boys over. 🙂

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  9. profiterolesandponytails says:

    I’m sure that the kids will be telling all of their friends that they cooked with rocks!! What an original recipe! My husband won’t eat lamb (which I love) but I would like to try this with another type of meat as I think the whole family would be excited about it. Great post!

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  10. hotlyspiced says:

    That’s great. What a wonderful way to cook. I’ve never cooked with rocks – how interesting! And the lamb looks so tender and like it’s falling off the bone. It must have melted in the mouth. Great recipe xx

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  11. Eva Taylor says:

    That’s out there, Kristy! We cooked Salmon on a stone we brought back from the cottage (we had a meal in Provence served that way) which was cool! But to cook a meal in a pan WITH rocks? Well that just rocks!
    I agree about North American lamb, it’s just too funky for me, but European and New Zealand lamb taste just fine. I wonder if it’s because we feed our lambs dirty socks?
    Thank you for the lesson in Mongolian cooking; but I doubt I’ll try this one, sorry.

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    • Kristy says:

      I wonder where this lamb was from. The last lamb we ate was imported from New Zealand. I’m not sure where this batch was from. Salmon on a stone sounds awesome! We’ve had some beef cooked that way before at a restaurant, but like you said never in a pot with rocks. 🙂

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  12. May says:

    I was about to ask about the rocks, so thank you for that comment! That makes sense actually, an extra point of heat. I had never heard of this method of cooking either. Your blog is so informative 🙂

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    • Kristy says:

      Thanks May! We had never heard of this kind of cooking either, but it was definitely a lot of fun. I doubt we’ll do it very if often, but the novelty made for a great night. 🙂

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  13. rsmacaalay says:

    Very interesting, I think the rock would contribute to making the lamb even more tender. I can relate because in Philippines grandmothers use something metal like a heavy fork or spoon and place it in a stew, this acts a conductor of heat hence giving higher temperature to what is cooking.

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  14. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    What a lovely story! I smiled when Miss A was going to eat it. So cute!!! I think my kids will be devastated when the rock changes color. It’s very interesting cooking technique and it was fun reading your story! Mongolian Beef.. haha. There are so many dishes that only exist in the US but not original country… I’m not a big fan of lamb because of smell and flavor too. Great that this dish was okay.

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  15. ChgoJohn says:

    What an interesting dish and method of cooking! Like you, the only Mongolian dish I’d ever heard of was the same beef we all know. It’s good to learn something authentic and I can’t wait to see what you’ll be fixing next, not to mention how you’re going to cook it.

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  16. Courtney says:

    This sounds so neat! I love the idea of cooking with the rocks. Sorry the boys didn’t find it so great, but glad you and Miss A enjoyed it. 602, wow, she must’ve loved it!

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