Mongolian nomads used to stay in a ger. And dining in a get would always be a highlight of any trip to Mongolia. But now you can get the same experience at 99 Gets.
A traditional yurt (Russian) or ger (Mongolian) is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia. You need a lot of space to this kind of restaurant. No, there were no 99 gers. And they have also modernised the gers. They are now permanent structure with air conditioning so that you can maintain the same climate during summer or winter.
The starters were a series of cold dishes. Like Ice Plant with Fruits Salad 果粒冰草, Mongolian Chive Potato Salad 沙蔥土豆泥, Tossed Cauliflower Fungus Salad 繡球菌, Bracken in Sesame Oil 香拌蕨菜 and Ger Pasta 氈房麵筋.
The ice plant gained a lot of popularity in recent years as a salad ingredient. It has bladder-like hairs on the leaf surface that reflect and refract light in a manner to make it appears that it sparkle like ice crystals or tiny glass beads. Ice Plant with Berries Salad 果粒冰草 is a really simple dish to prepare. Wash and dry ice plants, take it and tossed it with chopped fruits. Flavour it with a vinaigrette or salad dressing.
Brackens (蕨菜 Jue2 Cai1) are a genus of large, coarse ferns that are noted for their large, highly divided leaves. They are found on all continents except Antarctica and in all environments except deserts, though their typical habitat is moorland. The genus probably has the widest distribution of any fern in the world. The fiddleheads (young budding heads of brackens) are another popular wild vegetable that is served widely in Japan and Taiwan.
Bracken in Sesame Oil 香拌蕨菜 used blanched brackens and simply marinated with sesame oil and salt to taste. You are tasting the crunch and texture. Yet, I felt I was eating spinach. A wise man once said, if it tasted like chicken, one would rather eat chicken. But it is always good to know if we run out of fresh vegetables, brackens are edible.
Mongolian Chive (La. Allium mongolicum Regel, 沙蔥, 蒙古韭) is an Asian species of wild onion native to Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Tuva, Kazakhstan, and parts of China (Gansu, Liaoning, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Xinjiang). Mongolian Chive Potato Salad 沙蔥土豆泥 used this farmed chives set in a western style potato salad. Salty, sour and infused with the chive taste, it was a good starter.
Cauliflower Fungus (La. Sparassis cripsa) is a pleasant, sweet tasting fungi that can be eaten raw or sautéed. Tossed Cauliflower Fungus Salad 繡球菌 used a blanched version that was flavoured with and tossed with Beijing Cabbage. Very fitting nod to the location we were in.
Ger Pasta 氈房麵筋 was a cold noodle dish that was made with homemade pasta, shredded cucumber, tofu skin, chopped parsley (lots of it) and a hot Szechuan chilli sauce. Not Mongolian, the Mongolian version I had years ago was made with a tomato sauce like an Italian pasta.
When you go to Mongolia, you will definitely be treated to diary products made from sheep and yak milk. These days, they can also be made from cow milk, but the best would still be the ones from sheep milk. Not for the faint hearted, sheep milk has a “goaty”, gamey smell that would remind one of BO.
Once the Mongolian greetings were over, you would be offered a cup of sheep milk tea. In the milk tea was butter churned from sheep milk. And to that, you add millet fried with the same butter. Surely an acquired taste, I would not miss it if Starbucks does not sell it.
The staples included Yoghurt Chewy 奶片, Nougat 奶酪塊, Milk Drops 奶豆腐, Butter 黃油, Margarine 白油, Sheep Milk Tea 鮮奶茶, and Fried Millet 炒米. Everything is made from sheep milk. I am not used it, but you got try the staples at least once.
The Piece De Resistance
I have no idea why one would associate lamb with Mongolia. Maybe it’s because Mongolia is one of the biggest exporter of sheeps. Grazing takes place on year-round pastures with no supplementary feeding, Mongolian lambs are lean and do not have the gamey taste 羊羶味 that we associate with lamb, goat and sheep meat – generally labelled as mutton. Mongolian lamb should not be referred to as mutton. They are really two different type of meat even though the Chinese character is the same.
In Mongolia, dinner begins with a whole lamb and a bottle of vodka. The animal, butchered and killed that day in honor of our arrival, had hung to dry from the rafters of the ger. Then, the lamb is roasted over hot amber coal until the skin is crispy. The drippings hit the red, hot coal to produce a sweet-smelling smoke that would infuse the meat further.
Grilled Whole Lamb 烤全羊 was just seasoned with salt, and no other spices. You can then eat it with the accompanying Mongolian Spice Rub made of cumin, paprika, salt and some other fragrant spices that I cannot determine. 99 Gers provided a sweet chilli sauce to pacify the Chinese palates because the spice rub was not exactly generally accepted. There’s also a bowl of white vinegar wine to take away the lamb smell, if you are really sensitive.
Eat it with a pancake like a pita bread, or just eat on it own. Start with the ribs, have some loin, then the legs. The most flavourful were the fatty parts.
Homemade Tofu 豆腐腦 is literally translated from Chinese as “Tofu Brain”. The soft tofu was scooped into a bowl and the resulting “brain” can then be mixed with savoury like chive paste (Beijing favourite), soy sauce, scallions, sugar, chilli, and/or fermented yellow bean paste. My favourite combination is chilli, scallions, yellow bean paste. Everyone has a favourite combo.
Millet is a crop that is found in semiarid regions, and eaten in mainly in North-eastern China. Millet porridge would replace the rice porridge. Millet Pancake 黃米炸糕 is made in every kitchen during family gathering. Millet flour is used and kneaded into a dough and then fried in hot oil. You can eat it on its own, which is quite bland, or dipped in a caramel, like what was served in 99 Gers.
Mongolian Chives Omelette 沙蔥炒雞蛋 was another really simple dish for the evening. Take eggs, beat it up, fry it over a hot wok and introduce chives. Don’t know what to say. The star was supposed to be the chives, but there were so little of it.
Lamb Chop Suey Soup 羊雜湯 tasted like the Teochew Pig Stomach Soup, very peppery and light. The milky white colour came from long hours of boiling lamb bones into a savoury stock. Different lamb innards were chopped into fine bits and reintroduced into the stock. No, it did not taste yucky. If you like pig stomach soup, you will find this soup to be soul food on a cold winter night.
This dish is not Mongolian. We ordered it because we had enough lamb, goat and meat. Salt Baked Sea Prawns 鹽焗海蝦 was a Cantonese dish. I found the prawn being baked too long, a little overcooked and lost the crunch of prawns.
This is definitely not a dating place. Rooms were big and spacious, enough for a family gathering to a hall for a big company dinner. We hosted 30 pax in one tent for the evening.
Service was attentive and I would say, very friendly. They patiently explained each of the dish, as not all were acquainted with Mongolian cuisine, especially the staples. At an additional cost, you can get Mongolian greetings and a simple song and dance featuring dancers, traditional instruments, the hatta, and lots of drinking.
The branch that we went to was just next to the Olympic Park, and the restaurant was also sited on a large ground that children can roam and feed goats and lambs before dinner.
The tents were modern comfort, but on a cold winter night, you still have to walk the stretch to the toilets situated in another tent.
99 Gers 九十九顶毡房 (清河店)
Address: 9 Yong Tai Zhuang Bei Lu, Haidian Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100096
Phone: +86 10 6299 1888
Date Visited : Feb 2018