Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mongolian Grille

If anybody Khan, Gengis Khan.

Location: 117 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701 GoogleMaps
Phone: 512-476-3938
Hours: Sun-Thu 11a-10p, Fri-Sat 11a-11p

Other locations:
12636 Research (Northbrooke Plaza) 512-335-8888
115 Sundance Parkway, #420, Round Rock, Texas 78681(La Frontera Village) 512-716-1900

A Wikipedia entry claims (without any reference) that Monogolian BBQ originated in Taiwan in the mid to late 20th century, contradicting the story I've heard many times over that the style originates from the 12th century Mongol armies of Genghis Khan, who evidently ate their way through Asia and Europe like a termite through your back deck. Legend says that the army fed itself by pillaging and scavenging what ingredients they could find and then cooking the mixture on their shields over open fires.

Regardless of its origin, it's fun to eat. You grab a bowl and pile it to overflowing with veggies and meat, then hand it over to a guy to cook on his shield. Actually it's a giant round grill, but who's counting?

A few details of importance:

  1. Be sure to pile it to overflowing because once it's cooked it takes up less than half of the space it took while raw. If you try to be polite and just pack a reasonable level bowl, you're not going to have much to eat when they bring the cooked bowl to you. I pack mine so full that when I stop at the sauce table, I'm constantly having to put stuff back in that fell out.

  2. Speaking of the sauce table, that's your next stop, where you pour different sauces over the pile. You can follow one of the recipies or create your own combination. The sauces include light soy, dark soy, garlic, hoisin, sate, orange, pineapple, sweet and sour, hot, rice vinegar, rice wine, madras curry, green curry and sesame oil.
  3. You also get white rice and sesame bread.
  4. It's pretty healthy eating. Fresh veggies and a light spray of unsaturated vegetable oil cooked quickly at high-heat so the nutrients and vitamins aren't cooked out.

My favorite Mongolian place in Honolulu is no longer in business. They used to age the tomatoes until they were just on the verge of spoiling. The first few times it freaked me out, but it became an acquired taste and now when I eat Mongolian I find myself wishing for almost-rotten tomatoes to mix in. (In case you're wondering, the tomatoes at the Mongolian Grille are fresh.)

If you're not near Austin, look for a place that does Mongolian BBQ in your area. It's an experience you don't want to miss.

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