Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Meal Before Tsagaan Sar

by Mark

Even though today marks the beginning of the Tsagaan Sar (white moon/month) holiday - basically the Mongolian Lunar New Year celebration, this post is about the meal that Kara and I hosted at our apartment just this Monday.  We'll save the Tsagaan Sar post for next time.  We decided to have my co-workers over for a Mongolian/American meal both as a long overdue custom, but also as a way of saying "I can't afford and probably don't have the time to invite you all over here during the holidays".  Also, because we're leaving for UB in just a few days now for our trip to Cambodia/Thailand, having a lunch before the trip and before the holiday just made the most sense.

Nine of my co-workers arrived about an hour after our intended lunch time and I decided to hand out our three sets of small photo albums.  Most of them have not seen me before I lost the weight here in Mongolia, so there were a lot of "oh wow, Mark was fatter, we like him fat!"  It doesn't bother me.  And our pictures taken at the Grand Canyon a few years ago are just hard to explain.  But these all helped to pass the time as some of the food was finishing cooking.

We decided to make the traditional steamed dumplings (buuz) and paired it with the staples of pickles and sliced carrots.  But in order to give the meal a little different feel, we decided to make both a pasta salad (with tomatoes and cucumber) and one of our favorite salads, the Top Ramen Salad.  My co-workers loved how simple it was - cabbage, ramen noodles, and peanuts with an oil, sugar, seasoning dressing - and loved that we cut the cabbage into larger pieces rather than coleslaw style.  We had other fruits and candy on the table as well to accompany the main dishes.  

Overall it was a simple meal.  But in light of the food fest that Tsagaan Sar is we decided that simple is best, and in the end it was the simplest of foods that put a smile on my co-workers faces.  I've been meaning to have them over for a very long time, and we've just not felt comfortable doing it...but now that it's done with we're both glad we did.  

It's now time to eat buuz, salads, fruits, and candy for the next 3-4 days...and to refresh our memories of the traditional greetings and ways to be culturally assimilated at this time of year.  To anyone reading this: Saihan Shineleerei! (Please Have a Nice New Year!)

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