Mongolian tour guide

Short information about Mongolian dairy products



Historical and ethnographic accounts show that Mongolian dairy products have generally been processed in identical ways from the 13th century to today, although the terminology differs somewhat from region to region. Mongols milk all five of the animals, but they tend to put the milk into different uses.



Mares milk - Airag

Thus, mare’s milk is generally fermented into KOUMISS, sheep and goat’s milk is mostly used in TEA or cheeses, while cow’s Milk is used for all three purposes. Zöökhii, or cream, is one of the simplest dairy products to make, being produced by letting the milk curdle in a warm place for six to eight hours and skimming the cream off the top.


Horse Milk


This cream is strained and churned to form “white oil” (tsagaan tos), which is then gently melted to separate the “yellow oil” (shar tos), or clarified butter.

White oil - Tsagaan tos



The residue from the separation of “white oil” is tsötsgii, a delicious cream was eaten in recent times mixed with cane sugar and fried millet. Once the cream is skimmed off, the rest of the milk may be poured into a kettle over a gentle flame until it separates into curds and “yellow milk” (sharasü). The yellow milk is boiled and then mixed with culture and allowed to ferment, forming chagaa.

The chagaa is then placed in sacks and the liquid squeezed out with weight, forming a semisolid aarts. Dried in the sun, aarts becomes khuruud, a kind of rockhard cheese. This cultured cheese can be preserved indefinitely and was part of the regular rations of soldiers on campaigns. It is reconstituted for eating by placing it in hot water.


In the Middle Ages, this was done by putting it in the skin and beating it, while in modern times it is often placed in tea. Today the aarts is frequently mixed with sugar and squeezed through a meat grinder to form wormlike pieces of sweet aaruul, a popular holiday and gift product. Another form of khuruud is made today without culture by pressing unfermented curds into moulds to create parts of hard, round, dry curds used to decorate hospitality plates.

In the fall öröm rather than zöökhii is made. Öröm is a kind of coagulated foamy cream. By gently heating (to about 80°C, or 176°F) and ladling the milk, foam is produced, which when the fire is weakened coagulates.

By carefully adding new milk around the edges and reheating three to four times, a thick layer of öröm is formed, which after cooling overnight can be removed.

Mongolian cheese - biyaslag



Cheeses (biyaslag) are made by adding fermented milk to foaming milk, heated over a gentle flame. The curdled milk is then strained through a cloth, wrapped, and placed under a stone to remove the liquid. This procedure can also be followed with the milk left over from öröm.

Mongolian alcoholic beverages



Culture is also added directly to milk (fresh or leftover from making öröm) to make yoghurt (tarag). Fermented, slightly alcoholic liquors are made from mare’s, cow’s, and camel’s milk.

That from mare’s milk is the famous koumiss (from Turkish qumiz, Mongolian, airag or chigee), the drink of choice for Inner Asian men. This is produced by vigorously churning cultured milk. Koumiss has a natural tendency to separate into turbid white dregs and a potent clear liquid.

While today only plain koumiss is usually drunk, in the empire period the clear liquid, called “black koumiss” (qara qumiz) in Turkish (all clear liquids are “black” to the Mongols), was the rulers’ preferred drink. Today, instead, distilled milk liquors are made with home-distilling equipment set up over a kettle of boiling fermented milk. The resulting liquor, called shimiin arkhi in Mongolia or saali-yin arikhi in Inner Mongolia, is 10–12 per cent alcohol. Double-fermented milk liquor, or arz, reaches 30 per cent alcohol.


Mongolian dairy prodcut

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