A giant red-brown disk of the sun suddenly emerges from the horizon and gets smaller as it rises, the color turns into yellow. And finally we saw the sun as we usually see. Nobody will regret to travel the Mongolian Gobi just to enjoy seeing the sunrise – the inexpressible natural phenomenon. But our staying there came to more than that.
Until now the hunting is an inseparable part of Mongols’ livelihood that they have been running the nomadic pastoral lifestyle for many centuries in the pure environment of Central Asia. Mongolian methods of hunting are harmonious with nature and also are specific by that it is in interrelation with behavior of animals to be hunted. So we headed to the Gobi to see real art of hunting and cooking exotic dishes in the wild.
O.Togoo, who is an experienced hunter from the Bulgan sum of Omnogovi aimag, welcomed to show hunting black tail gazelle by the “Camel shield” method. Almost all of herders in rural areas have their own nicknames. Our hunter’s nickname is “Red”. In countryside, it is easy to distinguish people by their nicknames because there are too many namesakes. However, it should be remembered that it is not ethical to call others by nickname if you are not in close acquaintances.
People from the Gobi, apparently, consider the meat of black tail gazelle as the tastiest one. They also like the meat of wild sheep and wild goat, as well as mutton, horse-flesh and beef alike. But they rarely consume dzeren, the wild bactrian camel – havtgai and domestic bactrian camel as meat products and consider them not so delicious.
Just after sunrise, our hunter began slowly to move closer to the herd of gazelles by grazing nine camels quiet quietly. Mongols traditionally tend everyday only sheep and goat. But they keep cattle, horses and camels in the pastures freely if there is no need to milk them.
By the way, he very quickly found nine camels, not worrying about whether they were his or someone else’s, and gathered them together. They were peaceful, and most importantly, not noisy. The hunter “Red” Togoo moved up with his nine camels and left them one by one in the same distance around the herd of gazelles. And he left the last camel in the windless spot. So that, the gazelles were encircled fully by nine camels.
It took about 30 minutes to complete this scheme. The gazelles setting down to graze could not discern the hunter because he walked hiding himself behind the forelegs of the last camel. As the hunter fired into the air first, the herd of gazelles were scared and tried to run away in all directions. But they jumped uselessly among the surrounding camels. And soon the second shot rang out and one of the gazelles fell down.
When the hunter gets up from the hidden place, the herd of gazelles knowing from where the threat originates run away. Such animals as gazelles and wild goats are usually accustomed to the camels in the pastures. But they can’t run out the circle of camels after a shock by a gun shot.
It gives the hunter a possibility to choose his target calmly. O.Togoo hunted only one infertile gazelle in the herd infallibly for this time too. Meat of infertile gazelle is very tasty one as it has not got a young. Besides, no other gazelle from the herd was harmed, and only one bullet was needed for hunting.
Our hunter flayed and handled the dead gazelle for less than 15 minutes. Then he cut its liver narrowly (2x2x8 cm in length) and garnished it with so called khumuul (the Gobi’s wild onion) before rolling it with omentum. Then after our hunter gathered dry branches of the Gobi’s bushes into a heap and set a fire.
The meat was roasted on fire and became ready in less than five minutes and the dish is called “Sors”. I felt that Gobi’s fresh air was an incomparable appetizer and it was my first time to taste amazingly delicious roasted liver.
Next food was called “Havchmal”. In order to prepare it, “Red” hunter Togoo collected from two flat stones with diameters of more than 20 cm, as well as 18 spherical stones with diameters of about 18 cm. Then he again set a fire with dry branches of Gobi’s zag tree and put those stones into the fire. Dry branches of the zag are almost similar to coal in their calorific value.
Meanwhile our hunter cleaned gazelle’s rumen. Then he made some small pieces from the handled carcass so that they can get into the mouth of the rumen. Also he prepared another piece of solid meat of 2 cm in thickness separately by fitting it in the flat stones. Thereafter he also made some holes in the prepared meat with edge of the knife in order to flavor it with khumuul.
As soon as the hunter took two burning hot flat stones from the fire and put the garnished meat between them, a favorable smell of roasted meat intrigued our noses. In ten minutes, the food called “Havchmal” became ready. It turned out to be very tasty. The main technology is that the fluid of meat pours out a little cooked between burning hot stones.
After preparing the “Havchmal” completely, our hunter began to arrange another exotic dish called “Guzeenii horhog”. He filled the cleaned rumen with small pieces of meat and burning hot stones, in a way to combine the meat-stone one by one and tied the mouth of rumen.
Then our cook began knead the filled rumen on all sides. It prevents the meat to stick with hot burning stones and burn out. Such method also lets the meat to be cooked smoothly. That is the reason why the hunter collected spherical stones. As the rumen filled with burning hot stones, it swelled straight away and looked like it could break in any minutes. Then, the hunter dragged the mouth of the rumen from two sides slowly and made air come out.
After 25 minutes “Guzeenii horhog” became ready as well. Togoo explained to me, the word “horhog” was originated from the hissing sound “horr… horr” and I really heard such sound during the cooking. Horhog is unique in its taste alike previous two dishes. Preparing and trying such exotic and tasty dishes are possible just only in the Gobi dessert.
The sun in the Gobi began to burn more, when we finished eating the extraordinary food. I slept soundly, even though I was not used to sleep during daytime. Such sleeping pattern is called as getting hit by the horhog soup by the Gobians.
N.Battushig Bars, G.Amarsanaa Jegal