It is NOT a well kept secret that I do not like the food in Mongolia. Being a notoriously picky eater who bristles at the sight of gristle and has spent a lifetime carving the fat off my meat, the Mongolian diet of mutton and marmot always presents a challenge. I tend to live on Luna Bars and instant oatmeal and by the end of the trip, crave a salad more than anything on this dear planet. But we all know how food not only sustains us, but is associated with our memories and our emotions. We all know those special smells and tastes that bring us comfort and sate us with a sense of peace. Well mine, here in Mongolia, is the Naan at Hazara North Indian Restaurant in Ulan Bataar.
We usually get to Hazara the first night we are in country. It is a ritual that grounds us before we head off to the countryside and the work we have planned. It is a laugh filled dinner of Chinggis beers in big german steins and spicy eggplant, butter chicken, lamb kebabs, vegetable pakoras and the best Naan i have EVER tasted. Crispy and chewy and buttery perfection in a big basket of love right in the center of the table. As we devour more than our share, we meet the team, catch up with old friends, and feel "at home" in this far away land.
My brother, Tucker Yoder, was just named the Best Chef in Charlottesville, Virginia by the Charlottesville-Albermarle Visitors Bureau. There is no doubt he respects the power that food, and sharing a well prepared meal, has to create lasting memories. Food can be that island of the familiar that grounds you in unfamiliar surroundings. Hazara has always been that for me in Mongolia.
I am back again for another two weeks in Choibalsan. I hope to blog as much as possible but we will see how internet access and time allow. Soon it will be Luna Bars and oatmeal but last night ... it was Naan, perfect, perfect naan.