Our riding trip through Mongolia
A very special birthday dinner: bodag


On my birthday we were having a rest day next to a river in a mountain valley full of flowers when a group of Mongolians rode towards us, rifles slung over the back, marmots hanging from the saddles. Before we knew what was happening they started collecting wood and slaughtering the marmots. We were in for a treat, our first bodag ritual.

Bodag is a special way of cooking marmot and a social happening. It includes hot stones, fatty soup right out of the skin of the marmot, whistling sounds when it is done. By the time it is cooked it is usually dark and you slice off bits and pieces of the meat and fat in the dark. If the hands get cold there are always the hot greasy stones to hold.

The Mongolians slaughter the marmot on a pole in a way that the skin stays intact and forms a sort of bag. Meat and hot stones are stuffed inside and the opening in the skin is tied together and hooked to a long stick, which the Mongolians move across a spread out fire. And then it goes back and forth for quite a while until a spooky thing happens. The marmot seems to whistle like a pressure cooker.

The guys remove it from the fire, make a hole in the skin and out comes a fatty soup which they drink with relish. Then again back and forth over the fire. When it is done everyone holds the stones in his hands and then starts slicing off meat and fat of the skin. The fire is only glowing by then.

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