Taiwan: Mongolian Barbecue

Restaurant: El Camino Mongolian BBQ
City: Santa Clara, CA

Several coworkers and I had a farewell lunch at El Camino Mongolian BBQ for lunch today! This place is owned and run by a Korean couple; check out their story!

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Did you know that despite its name, Mongolian BBQ is not Mongolian? It’s actually from Taipei, Taiwan! Read on for more, from Cultural China:

Food cooking on a Mongolian barbecue griddle. Mongolian barbecue (蒙古烤肉) is a restaurant style of stir frying meats and vegetables over a large, round, solid iron griddle that is as large as 2.5 m in diameter and can cook at temperatures as high as 300 °C or 572 °F. It is originally from Taiwan, despite the name, and not Mongolia, and is only very loosely related to barbecue. The name seems to have stuck mainly because it is somewhat catchier than “Taiwanese teppanyaki.”

Origin

Mongolian barbecue first appeared in Taiwan in the middle to late 20th century. Although the stir-frying of meats on a large, open surface is supposed to evoke Mongolian cuisine, the preparation actually derives from Japanese-style teppanyaki which was popular in Taiwan at the time. “Mongolian” barbecue is not actually Mongolian at all; for examples of genuine Mongolian food, see buuz or khuushuur. A barbecue in Mongolia is prepared quite differently.

Notwithstanding the historic facts, American restaurants such as HuHot Mongolian Grill and BD’s Mongolian Barbeque claim that soldiers of the Mongol Empire gathered large quantities of meats, prepared them with their swords and cooked them on their overturned shields over a large fire, while a German restaurant chain with the same concept claims that the Mongolian soldiers cooked their meals on a heated stone.

Preparation

Typically, diners choose various ingredients from a buffet of thinly sliced raw meats (beef, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken, shrimp) and vegetables (cabbage, tofu, sliced onion, cilantro, broccoli, and mushrooms) and assemble them in a large bowl or on a plate. These ingredients are given to the griddle operator who adds the diner’s choice of sauce and transfers them to one section of the hot griddle. Oil and sometimes water may be added to ease cooking, and the ingredients are stirred occasionally.

The ample size of the Mongolian barbecue griddle allows for several diners’ food to be cooked simultaneously on different parts of the griddle. In many restaurants (primarily buffets) one dish will be cooked at a time, the operator walking around the outside of the grill once or twice moving the food while walking. When cooking is complete, the finished dish is scooped into a bowl and handed to the diner.

Although Mongolian barbecue first appeared in Taipei in 1951, the stir-frying of meats on a large, open surface is supposed to evoke Mongolian foods and Mongolian traditions. The preparation can also derive from Japanese-style teppanyaki, which was popular in Taiwan at the time. The very first Mongolian Barbecue restaurant (Gengis Khan Mongolian BBQ) was opened in 1976, and was located in downtown Taipei, Taiwan. As Mongolian Barbecue became more popular, it was successfully introduced to the West. (Wikipedia)

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