So I’ve been planning to write about food for the last few months as it’s become a regular topic of conversation. When we first arrived the first thing a colleague did was take Pete and the other newbies to a couple of supermarkets. He came back with some essentials, milk, juice, bread, crisps and some fruit. Not too bad we thought but the reality was the milk is just not the same. The bread was bizarrely a bit sweet and a different texture. Fruit juice is fruit juice so that’s ok. But crisps, they do Pringles and a version of Walkers but no individual packs and only a small selection of flavours. I like Pringles but sometimes you just need some salt and vinegar crisps after a few beers and a late night. Over the months we have expanded the different food stores we have tried but unlike England you cannot get everything under one roof, nice sausages – Aussie butcher – yes even though we are in Mongolia, sausage meat and mince- Khan deli, reasonably priced cereal-the German shop, jelly and other American style food- Good Price (don’t be deceived by the name, it’s a big price), the best fresh veg and fruit- Mercury market…… need I go on? The closest supermarket is ok and now the weather has warmed it’s not too bad a walk- so Pete tells me! The biggest problem is not having a car because there are only so many bags of shopping you can carry back from the city on the bus or pack around the 5 of us in a cab. But somehow we’ve managed it. Yes we’ve missed friends and family massively at some points but the second most missed thing is food.
It took 8 months but finally we found ham 2 weeks ago – a moment to celebrate.
The lack of some things in the shop has just meant that I’ve made it instead, nice bread, puff pastry, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and my favourite….. hot cross buns. I have increased the repertoire of things I’ve attempted to cook but during the week I’ve also increased the repertoire of bizarre things that Mummy has put on one plate and called a meal! Thank goodness we have been able to find pesto and thank goodness that having had a while where I didn’t use it in England (as the children got sick of it) it has now become a meal where I can guarantee 5 empty plates. A result when you walk in the door at 5-15 having been in an SMT meeting for 2 hours and left the children to their own devices and they want dinner NOW!
The time is coming where we are thinking about the new staff arriving in August and we have realised that we will be the ‘old’ staff with all the recommendations of where to eat and drink. Therefore since the snow has disappeared our mission has been to visit a new restaurant every weekend. With a small bit of research – Lonely Planet and colleagues- we have discovered some that serve fabulous food in beautiful surroundings at a fraction of the cost of the UK. Where they source their ingredients I will never know but you can go to Terazza and feel like you are in England, sampling the best pizza and pasta there is to offer, you can go to the Shangri-La and feast like kings in the eat as much as you like Sunday buffet, you can sit in a mini Ger overlooking a spectacular gold Buddha and a UB war memorial perched on top of a hill eating sumptuous Chinese and Japanese food, you can cook your own hot pot whilst sampling sushi in Nagomi, you can eat a panini stuffed to the brim with pulled pork at Rosewood, you can eat in or have delivered some very authentic Indian cuisine or you can pop back to The Irish Bar in Viva City over the road if you just fancy a good old pizza and beer. The variety of restaurants and food they produce is great – it can take a while to find some of them and once you are there you have to remember you are not in the UK and it can take a while to be served and to get food but 9 times out of 10 it is worth the wait. There are more that we have sampled that I haven’t even mentioned here and we still have 6 weeks to add a couple to the list.
We have also sampled some traditional Mongolian food along the way – fermented horse milk, roof of a sheep’s mouth meat, dried curds, buuz(steamed meat dumplings), Khuushur (fried meat dumplings) oh and horse milk vodka…………let me know if you want me to bring any samples back in the summer!
Seb has also been kept busy at the weekends learning lots of new baking skills, with the added bonus of making some money!! Each week he sends out an order form and then bakes to order for the staff who live on site, delivering on a Sunday – staff favourites so far are lemon drizzle muffins, cheese straws, sausage rolls and chocolate fudge cake. The reviews are good, he’s made some money and survived the wrath of his mother when he’s just not working fast enough!! It also inspired him to enter a Easter cake competition at school (with a typical Mongolian style one day’s notice) which he won. I have managed to get the children into watching Masterchef and Junior Bake Off although all of them have said they don’t want to be chefs. I also took part in a staff ‘Come Dine with Me’ – 6 of us paired up and cooked for each other on 3 consecutive Thursday nights, myself and my partner Becky went with an American theme – stuffed potato skins, homemade burgers and key lime pie. We also had a Mexican night and a murder mystery. All in all a lot of fun to wile away the dark, freezing cold winter nights.
So after all of these culinary delights – what am I looking forward to most? A bowl of cereal with ‘green’ milk, some cheese and crackers and fish and chips on the beach. Just a few of life’s simple pleasures.