Airag: Mongolia's Popular Milk Beverage
Mongolia, a land of rich culture, is known for its unique culinary offerings. Among these, airag, often referred to as "kumis" in other Central Asian countries, holds a special place. This fermented milk beverage has been integral to Mongolian life for centuries, offering refreshments and a glimpse into the country's cultural heritage.
History of Airag
Airag's history dates back over a thousand years, making it one of the oldest known fermented beverages in the world. It was initially developed for nomadic Mongolian tribes to preserve their dairy products. Mongolian herders would milk their mares, typically during the summer when the animals were well-fed and healthy, and then ferment the milk to create airag.
Generally, mare's milk is used to prepare Airag, although camel and cow milk can also be used. The milk is left to ferment in a vessel called "khukhuur" or "khokhuurin tolgoi," traditionally made from animal hides. The fermentation process requires repeatedly stirring the milk with a wooden masher 3000 to 5000 times over one or two days. This process transforms the milk into a mildly alcoholic beverage with a distinct sour taste.
Airag is a unique beverage with a unique taste. It has a slightly fizzy texture and a tart, sour flavour. The alcohol content generally ranges from 2% to 3%. A hint of sweetness balances the sourness, and the overall taste is refreshing, especially when served chilled. Many Mongolians appreciate airag not only for its taste but also for its numerous health benefits.
Airag is deeply connected with Mongolian culture and traditions. In various ceremonies, such as weddings and festivals like Naadam, guests are greeted by offering a bowl of airag as a symbol of hospitality and respect.
Airag is a potent source of vitamins A, C E and is extremely rich in vitamin D, and minerals. Hence, it's considered by the Mongolian people to have medicinal properties like helping digestion, boosting the immune system, and providing essential nutrients, making it a staple in the diet of many nomadic herders.
If you have an opportunity to visit Central Asian countries, be sure to experience the unique taste of Airag.
Leave your comment if you have already tried this unique beverage.