Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

FORKLORE

Mongol Soup

September 05, 1996|CHARLES PERRY

Seven hundred years ago, the Mongols dominated the world from Hungary to China. They may have had some unpleasant customs, such as building pyramids of their enemies' skulls, but food-wise, they were quite tolerant, freely serving Chinese and Near Eastern dishes at court. One reason is that their own cuisine, based on the meat and dairy products of their herds, was on the monotonous side: yogurt, dried yogurt, really dried yogurt, etc.

But they did have one special-occasion dish, a sort of soup or porridge called shilon (also pronounced sholen), that was impressive enough for foreigners to adopt. That's why the word for "soup" is sile among the Mongols' neighbors to the east, the Manchus of northern China and the Tungus nomads of Siberia.

From India to the Middle East, and in all the countries with names ending in -istan, words descended from shilon mean a soupy pilaf. Iranian restaurant menus sometimes list shol-e zard, a sweet rice dish colored with turmeric or saffron. The name seems to mean "the yellow soft thing" in Farsi, but the first part is really just silon.

And shola was a favorite dish of the Moguls of India (after all, they did claim descent from the Mongols). A book called the Ain-i Akbari gives a general description of the dishes served to the Emperor Akbar, including shola. It was meat cooked with rice, onions, chickpeas, butter, fresh ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom and clove. The Moguls were hearty eaters--the recipe calls for 14 pounds of meat to serve 6.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|