Khorkhog is a traditional Mongolian dish consisting of meat and vegetables cooked with hot stones inside of a sealed vessel. It is sometimes called the real Mongolian BBQ.
Meat options are sheep or goat and the vegetables include onions, carrot, rutabaga, potatoes and cabbage. A small amount of seasoning spice is used and a splash of water is added to create a broth.
The vessel used for khorkhog can be large metal water or milk jug, a homemade pressure container with heavy metal lid that seals when covered or a repurposed pressure cooker. The rocks are heated under burning wood or dung before placing into the vessel.
The rocks will stay hot during the cooking process helping to cook the food from within the container. Smooth river rocks are used because of their ability to retain heat and resistance to cracking during high temperatures.
The foods cooks for an hour or two. The hot stones are removed before serving. The stones are passed around, taking turns to hold them as it is believed to have healing properties. Khorkhog is reserved for large gatherings like festivals or weddings, often using a whole goat or sheep.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Khorkhog originated from Mongolia’s nomadic population whose diet consists primarily of meat since a nomadic lifestyle does not allow for enough time to grow many foods. The nomads used wooden containers but metal containers would later be used as they became more available.
Khorkhog is called the real Mongolian BBQ because another style of cooking was previously accepted as Mongolian BBQ in the West. This is a misnomer. It consists of strips of meat and vegetables cooked over a hot iron. In the 1950’s, a Chinese man living in Taiwan would open a restaurant where he called this style of cooking Mongolian BBQ. This is not related to true Mongolian cuisine.
- Goat meat (including ribs, cut into small pieces) - 11 lb
- Potatoes (large) - 7
- Carrots (large) - 4
- Onions - 2
- Garlic - 1 bulb
- Salt and pepper - to taste
- Water - 10 oz.
- Stones (ideally round, smooth and fist sized) - 10-15
- Prepare the stones by cleaning them and heating them in coal for around 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and carrots, cutting into large pieces
- Separate the garlic bulb and peel each clove.
- Peel and slice the onions.
- Put the water in a large pan with about 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.
- Once the stones are heated, start adding the meat and vegetables in batches into the large pan and with each batch add a stone, so that they are eventually all distributed evenly between the meat and vegetables.
- Add 2 more teaspoons of salt and some pepper.
- Close the lid and cook on full heat for around 1.5 hours.
- Check the pan intermittently to ensure the meat is not burning and add water if necessary.
- Serve the juice from the meat separately as a broth.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1052Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 468mgSodium: 604mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 4gSugar: 4gProtein: 173g
Nutrition is provided and calculated by Nutritionix. It is for general information purposes and is only a rough estimation.
Photo credit: Dr. Bernd Gross