Mongolian traditional milk butter

Ark of taste
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Butter made with cow’s milk is a very important product in the cuisine and daily life of the people of inner Mongolia, who are cattle farmers.
This is the fat used daily to cook, but it is also added to tea, or used to make a fried butter cake. It is also eaten with snacks or used as a filling for steamed bread. It is offered to Buddha or taken to the Oboo (piles of stones and pieces of wood, a sort of votive area where the offerings of the Mongolian shamanic religion rituals are taken).
It plays a role during religious celebration, as well as on other occasions, such as weddings or birthdays.
As the color white is a symbol of purity and sacredness in Mongolia, white butter is considered a symbol of good luck and wellbeing. The people in this area usually receive guests with a sacred ritual: milk based food and drinks are offered to wish them well.
Butter is also used in traditional medicine.
When children suffer from stomachache, they grate some butter and rub in onto their stomach with their hands, to warm it and feel better. Due to the cold Mongolian winters, the elderly often suffer from arthrosis and use butter to massage and warm the body parts with rheumatic problems. Women also use butter to increase their yuanqi (in traditional medicine, this is the energy which activates all the processes of the body).
To make this butter, the freshly milked milk is left to ferment for about one day. After this period of time, the surface of the milk is covered with a frozen, two-centimeter layer of fat, called ""milk that can be chewed"". This layer of fat is removed with a spoon and placed inside a fabric bag to drain the excess water. It takes a few days to get rid of all the humidity.

The now very dry fat is placed inside a pot and heated to further eliminate any residual water. The heat creates two layers: on the bottom, there is an oily and acidic substance, while the top layer is made of butter.
The butter is placed inside a container and put in a cool place. It is now ready to be eaten as is.
It can be preserved for a long time and takes on a particular taste over time.

Only a few people can still make this endangered butter by hand. Similarly, only a few people are devoted to the traditional animal farming carried out by the local Mongolian population, and as a consequence the nomadic lifestyle is doomed to disappear. The farming environment, i.e the pastures, are more and more threatened by intensive forms of animal husbandry and mining. Factories pollute the water sources, causing problems and discouraging open air animal husbandry.

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Inner Mongolia

Production area:Keshiketengqi Region

Other info


Milk and milk products

Nominated by:Lash Nima - Bejing Liang Shuming's Rural Reconstruction Center