“WTF?!?!” I hear you ask…Mongolia?
As mentioned in my About Me page, I work in mineral exploration and for all intents and purposes I am a consultant. This means I travel to just about anywhere with a mining industry. In this case – Mongolia!
I flew to Mongolia on a combination of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air China and Mongolian Airlines. It was a messy itinerary that had me flying via Hong Kong and Beijing on the way over and via Beijing and Singapore on the way home. I had no problems with getting a vegan meal on Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific, in fact the Cathay Pacific meals were both vegan and gluten free. That’s not normally the case, but apparently I was lucky! On Air China I got given a vegetarian meal rather than a vegan meal for some reason, but about half the food on there was vegan friendly, so was able to eat some of it at least. And Mongolian Airlines was just a write-off. Got given ham and cheese sandwiches. I’d been forewarned by one of the people I was travelling with about that though, so I was prepared and had some food packed in my backpack as a contingency plan.
For the record, the diet in Mongolia largely consists of mutton, potato, mutton, horse, mutton, potato, and mutton.
Did I mention that they eat a lot of mutton? In case you don’t know, mutton is old sheep.
In Ulan Bator, there was some variety of food available. Korean bbq, Chinese, even an Irish pub! There was seemingly no concept of a vegan diet in Mongolia, but if you just requested potato fries, you were fine. You could get potato fries and ketchup everywhere. I never suggested that eating vegan was especially healthy! In Ulan Bator I could usually also find somewhere that could do some stir fried vegetables – they have a very strong Chinese influence there these days, so stir fry wasn’t a foreign concept, which was good.
Outside of Ulan Bator was more of an issue though. We were travelling in very remote and inhospitable locations in the Gobi Desert and in the Altai Mountains. You basically had to eat what was put in front of you or you starved. There were no menus, there were no options, you ate what you got given. Thankfully since the Mongolian diet had a strong dependence on potato, I managed to always eat. Although after a few days, you get pretty sick of eating nothing but potato for every single meal. And I had to do that for a month. My health was a shocker at the end of it due to lack of variety and missing out on essential nutrients. Now that I’ve been dealing with this for a while, I’m more aware of the issues surrounding vegan diets and always travel with relevant dietary supplement pills.
So surprisingly enough, eating vegan in Mongolia wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it might be. There is a distinct lack of variety, but hey, there’s always potato fries!
Mongolian dinner theatre…I ordered fries and a coke!