On Roosevelt Island, Food Unites the City’s Mongolian Community

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Here local home cooks showcase recipes without having to prove that their grandmother’s noodle soup is scalable.

This story is part of 1 Minute Meal, a documentary series that uses food to reveal the communities, legacies, dreams, realities, and unseen forces that shape life in New York City.

In a big city, restaurants can be flag posts for the immigrants who’ve come from far and wide to build new lives. However, not every community can build a business from its culinary knowledge, and most food culture will never make its way into a restaurant. That’s why New Yorkers interested in Burmese cuisine, Nicaraguan food and many other foods from around the world keep tabs on local fundraisers and international food markets. The city’s myriad community gatherings double as opportunities for local home cooks to showcase recipes without having to prove that their grandmother’s noodle soup is scalable.

On a recent afternoon on Roosevelt Island, Byambakhuu Darinchuluun created one such opportunity: a picnic for the city’s small but proud community of Mongolian Americans. While the path to this gathering was long and filled with transit delays, that didn’t stop a few dozen people of Mongolian heritage from bringing food, folk music and at least one suit of armor to this meeting point between boroughs.

Darinchuluun, who is president of the Mongol Heritage Foundation, set the table with a few very traditional Mongolian dishes: lamb dumplings served in a savory lamb broth “tea,” cheese made from sheep’s milk and a whole boiled sheep’s head. Eager to dispel the image of Mongolian BBQ restaurants that are in no way Mongolian and “only loosely related to barbecue,” he offers a sheep-ish (but not sheepish) invitation to anyone willing to have a test. 

Through September 1st, we will be collaborating with Edible Brooklyn, Edible Queens, Edible Bronx, and the Staten Island Advance to debut 30 new one-minute documentaries about food and life in New York. Subscribe to 1 Minute Meal to see stories from all five boroughs.

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James Boo is a multimedia journalist based in Brooklyn. As Editor-in-Chief of Real Cheap Eats, an independent filmmaker, and a freelance food writer, James has devoted his storytelling career to the intersection of food and culture. You can see more episodes of this web series at oneminutemealfilms.com.