Around the World in 80 Plates: Mongolia

Mongolia is located between Russia and China and has a very beautiful and harsh mountain landscape. The northern part of Mongolia is made of high mountain ranges with lots of lakes in the basins. The weather is harsh, cold, and unpredictable. The southern and eastern parts of Mongolia are hilly plains of grassland and desert. The grassland, or steppe, provides good pastures for herding livestock. The south of the country is part of the vast Gobi Desert, which means “Waterless Place.” Most of the Gobi is a desert of bare rock and gravel, not sand. The Gobi stretches across the Chinese border.2 The capital city of Ulaanbaatar is home to 45% of the population, and is ranked in the top 3 coldest capital cities along with Moscow and Ottawa. 30% of the Mongolian population are still nomadic and live in a gur, or yurt, like their ancestors.

Bactrian camels, known for their two humps, live naturally in Mongolia and there are efforts to help the population grow because it has been declining for many years. Genghis Khan is the most famous of all Mongolians. He rode tiny and tough Mongolian horses with his very large army and conquered most of the Asian continent, nearly to the Mediterranean in the early 1200’s.

There is a theory that Mongolian horseman may have invented ice cream, when they took cream in containers made from animal intestines as provisions on long journeys across the Gobi desert in winter. As they galloped, the cream was vigorously shaken, while the sub-zero temperature caused it to freeze. The expansion of the Mongol Empire spread ice cream through China, from where Marco Polo reputedly brought the idea to Italy when he returned from his travels in 1295.3

While I don’t know that this legend is true, lets try it out! It is okay if you don’t have a horse to gallop around in the winter wind; you can gallop around outside to shake up your ice cream, or just get out your winter mittens and some zipper bags!


  1. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/countries/mongolia/
  2. https://kids.britannica.com/kids/article/Mongolia/345747
  3. Clarke, Chris. The Science of Ice Cream. London, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2012.

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