Everywhere But Home

News and musings from wherever my crazy life takes me. My body may be back in Illinois, but at least for now, my mind is still in Mongolia.

What Do You Eat in Mongolia?: Beet and Cabbage Salad Edition


I’m not usually one to run to social media every time I sit down to eat. I mean, we all have those friends who bombard us with pictures of their every meal via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. ad nauseam, and really, who needs them? But there are some things that merit sharing, especially when they’re replicable.

I’m leaving my apartment in less than a week, which means I’m in the midst of trying to use whatever I have left in the apartment without buying anything new – a familiar scramble for many of us, I’m sure, but a tricky  one nonetheless. It’s a state of near-constant peckishness and deliberation about its extent, which of the dwindling supplies might satisfactorily alleviate it, and whether it merits the purchase of new foodstuffs. It doesn’t help that I tend not keep snack food around; neither barley nor dry beans are particularly quick to prepare.

But I managed to throw something together last week that fell into both of the previously described categories, and since that is a rare experience indeed, I figured I ought to share the recipe that left my mouth watering for more. It was sweet and tangy and earthy and crunchy and came out so much better than I had any right to expect given the haphazard preparation.

Must-Go Beet and Cabbage Salad

  • Dig half a baked beet out of your rapidly-emptying refrigerator. Halve it, then slice into strips thin enough to cook rapidly. Throw them into a hot skillet with enough oil to compensate for the degrading non-stick surface. The heat should be high enough to caramelize the surface of the beets nicely without burning them.
  • While the beets are browning, thinly slice a withered quarter of an onion. Reduce the heat slightly and add the onions. Throw in a spoonful of sugar as well, because who doesn’t like caramelization?
  • Mince a clove of garlic and add it, along with a little salt. Stir.
  • Shred or julienne a handful of cabbage and add it; despite my phytochemicals-are-tasty preference for red cabbage, I used green for color contrast. Stir a few times, then turn off the heat and throw on the lid – when mostly raw, they add some nice crunch.
  • Splash in some red wine vinegar if you live somewhere where it’s available; if you live in Mongolia, add just a tiny bit of the obscenely strong white vinegar they have here and be very careful not to splash it, because that stuff will give you honest-to-god chemical burns. Trust me on that one.
  • Enjoy with Mexican rice empanadas/khuushuur, or whatever else you happen to have. No, I have absolutely no problem throwing world cuisines together – why do you ask?
You know it's good when you gobble most of it down before realizing you probably want photographic evidence.

You know it’s good when you gobble most of it down before realizing you probably want photographic evidence.

If, like me, you love beets, cabbage, and vinegar, and this sounds absolutely splendid, I offer you one caution: don’t try to make this in large quantities. The balance of sweet and sour, soft and crunchy that so enchanted me when I prepared this small serving depends on caramelizing the sugars in the beets, as well as the spoonful later added, and that won’t happen if there’s more than a thin layer of beets in the bottom of the pan.

What are your favorite everything-must-go recipes? I’ve got plenty of potatoes and carrots left, as well as barley, black beans, red kidney beans, and eggs. Creative preparation suggestions are appreciated!

Author: everywherebuthome

Linguist. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Expat in Mongolia. Writer. Scout, dancer, gymnast, equestrienne.

4 thoughts on “What Do You Eat in Mongolia?: Beet and Cabbage Salad Edition

  1. For me, omelette… provided I’ve still got eggs and the yolk hasn’t turned green.
    Potato, egg and beet omelette…?

  2. Vinegar with chemical burns?! Yikes…

    When we were doing this in July, we ate a lot of potato salad and pseudo-Mexican dishes.

    • I am all over the pseudo-Mexican. Mongolian-style dumplings with Mexican rice filling? Done, and delicious.

      The widely-available vinegar’s labeled 70% (70% what, exactly, I don’t know – pretty sure this stuff’s Russian), and while I’m not sure what pH that its, it’s a dangerous one. You can also sometimes find cider vinegar, which has a more reasonable acidity; it’s more like 6-8%.

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