November 23rd, 2011 | by CHEF GREG HIGGINS Food & Drink | Posted In: Higgins in Mongolia

Higgins in Mongolia: Korean Hot Pot and Fatty Sheep Tail

mongolia
Portland chef Greg Higgins (of downtown's Higgins restaurant) is in Mongolia, sharing his sausage and charcuterie expertise with local butchers as part of Mercy Corps' Farmer to Farmer project, and he's blogging the whole trip for WW:

Our first call to duty in Ulaangom wasn't really sausage related—it was to cook a dinner party for a group of Mercy Corps, Peace Corps and US Aid folks. Bayantsogt and his wife Badam also owned a restaurant at the airport, about 15km north of town. If I thought cooking pizza and corn dogs in Khovd was a bit odd, being an Oregon chef cooking Korean hot pot and kalbi for a group of NGOs at the Ulaangom airport was even a bit more weird. This was starting to be my own version of Alice through the Looking Glass.

With the help of the two cheerful Mongol women in the kitchen, we were able to cook up some pretty good hot pot served with loads of garnishes: thin sliced fatty sheep tail, cabbage, noodles, beef, peanut sauce and even some kimchee. The kalbi was grilled on a portable propane burner since the electric range only had two working burners. It was a mninor miracle that we didn't set off a smoke alarm, maybe they just don't have them in remote Mongolian airport terminals. The guests were happy, they hadn't been sure what to expect. 

Fatty sheep tail

After cooking another soiree for some financiers from Ulaanbaatar the next day—more hot pot and sesame ginger broccoli chicken—we were finally ready to start making some sausage. At the Zel Gobi sausage shop, you pass through a tiny door (think rabbit hole) and enter a dimly lit room equipped with some of that Cold War-era Soviet sausage making equipment I had mentioned earlier. Sketchy wiring, surge protectors, and secret taps and bangs in the right places bring these aging behemoths to life. I was cautious to stay out of the puddles for fear of losing what little hair I have left. An OSHA inspector would just self-combust if he were to blunder into this jungle. Again the crew were all gals, perky, efficient and interested in everything we were doing. We got to it, sorting meats and fat, calculating and weighing out salt and seasonings and then grinding the batches. Based on our market spice foray and their interests we had chosen to make some beef jerky, Napoletana and Toscana salamis and another rendition of a terrine de campagne. Stuffing went smoothly and by late afternoon the salamis were all in the cooker/smoker. 

A stuffer for the ages

Upstairs in Babu, their soon to open grill restaurant, we sat to review the day and the plan for the next. A platter of boiled whole fatty sheep tail arrived and with it a liter of vodka. Apparently here in western Mongolia one never leaves any of either when getting down to business. A round of post-sheep tail Starburst type taffy helped us kill off the vodka—a new twist on mignardises. Things seemed to be coming together in their own special way. We trundled back to our abode with the snow squeaking under our boots beneath the piercing blanket of stars and the cold desert night.

Read more of Higgins in Mongolia here.

 
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