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WHAT TO DO IN MONGOLIA. 3.DRINK AIRAG

Blog | published: 2018-09-29

WHAT TO DO IN MONGOLIA. No3. DRINK AIRAG

Blue Mongolia Tour’s What To Do in Mongolia No3 list is refers to DRINK AIRAG. Airag is mare’s fermented milk and it is called as koumiss in russian language.

For Mongols, The most smart and sacred animal is the horse. Horses don't only serve at the purpose of riding, mounting, fighting and meat eating, the mare's milk also has a special status for making traditional national beverage of Mongolia.

Mongolia is a country, which is famous for its horse culture and medical knowledge related to horses. Drinking of mares’ milk has a history going back at least 5,500 years to the domestication of wild horses in dry severe climate steppe of Mongolia.   

Airag is made by filtering mares’ milk through a cloth, then pouring it into a large open leather sack (Khukhuur) suspended on the left-hand side of the entrance of the yurt. In modern times plastic, can or a vat made of larch wood is attached on that place. Within this sack, a fermenting agent is added (such as a preserved amount of the previous season’s airag), and the milk is stirred regularly. Within this leather sack the milk is stirred with a wooden masher (buluur). Stirring needs to be repeated regularly over 2-3 days. According to Mongolian tradition anyone entering or leaving the yurt do a few strokes to make the milk fermented. The fermentation process is caused by a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast, similar to Kefir. Fermentation occurs within 2-3 days, and the airag is then regularly topped up with fresh milk of horse throughout the drinking season from June to October. 

The fermentation starts once, in next days day by day the fermentation is getting more concentrated and the taste is getting strong and strong up to 8 percent. If this kind of well fermented airag will be moved or shifted from one place to another, that is big issue. The well fermented airag will be exploded.  That is why Airag is necessarily limited to domestic production, such as nomadic family groups. City people, who want to drink mare’s milk, is the hard to find the fresh good milk. They bought fresh milk from nomad families and then they put a piece of wood in the plastic container of airag. The wood will counterbalance fermentation process and sweeten the taste of airag.   

Airag refreshes and sparkles softly on the tongue. It contains a small amount of carbon dioxide, and it is low in alcohol – around 2-4 percent.   It can be made more alcoholic through additions such as juniper or blue barley, or through further distillation to make arkhi – horse milk vodka with an alcohol content of around 16 percent. The taste is slightly sour, but quite agreeable after getting used to it. The exact taste depends both of the characteristics of the pastures and the exact method of production.

Airag beverage is a rich source of vitamins and minerals for Mongolian nomads. At the nomad  family hospitality mandates to present a bowl of airag in silver cup to each visitor. In traditional Mongolian society white is a sacred colour, symbolizing happiness, prosperity, and high social status.  All naturally white things are considered to embody these properties, and airag is considered the most important of all. A Mongolian will normally empty it, but it is also acceptable to just take a sip and return the bowl. To reject the offer right away would be gravely impolite.

Mare's milk is usually not consumed raw, because it tends to have a strong laxative effect. In modern times that effect can also be applied for medical treatment as neutralizing the poison of x-tray treatment, poison of radiation and other chemical elements. Fermentation destroys the lactose in milk, converting it into lactic acid, ethanol, and carbon dioxide. This makes Airag acceptable for lactose intolerant people, which includes most of tourists from asia and europe. Without fermentation, mare's milk contains significantly more lactose than milk from cows or yaks, so that is why raw milk of horse is used as hydragogue to clean the stomach and body.

As the primary dairy form, airag thereby plays a important role in traditional Mongol society as the staple food for half the year, whilst its value as an alcohol is seen by virtue of its importance as medicinal and ceremonial spheres. Nomad man or Mongolian old man makes nice speeches and best wishes to marrying couple as holding a silver cup with airag at wedding ceremony. Mongolian men will express his own best wishes to just married new couples at the Ger build up ceremony. Mongolian lady splashes airag after those departing on journeys as wishing much good luck. Mongolians offer mare’s milk to the god of nature and spirit of mountains at felt manufacture process, shaman ceremony. When Mongolian family have a childbirth, the father pours little amount of airag on silk cradle or hanging wood cradle. Mongolians the main drink at the ceremony of old age ceremony and some spiritual rites. Eve there is a game, Mongolian game Dembee is guessing the total numbers of fingers shown by 2 people. Who is the lost in this game, need to drink a cup of airag. In modern times for our Blue Mongolia tourists gets roped into some sort of rock-scissors-paper gambling game, and drinking airag as punishment and sing karaoke in our disco jeeps or in open nature after having outdoor camping.

Blue Mongolia tour agency recommends you A truly authentic experience of drinking airag.

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