Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Burger's Mongolian Connection

Mongols besieging Baghdad
In modern day fast food chains, one of the most popular main dishes is hamburger. This dishes made of a bun and a beef patty in the middle gave a good meal to many. The burger was popularized in the United States during the 19th century. Further back, hamburger was said to be brought by German immigrant from the German city of Hamburg. But a deeper search to the beginnings, the main idea for hamburger came from one of the greatest conquerors - the Mongols.

The Mongols were great conquerors from the region of Central Asia. They lived a nomadic life and made of several clans. The Mongols were expert horsemen and lived through grazing. In In the late 11th century and early 12th century, the Mongols entered the spotlights of history when a Mongol warrior Temujin united all Mongolian clans and became known as Genghis Khan. He then galloped with his army to China and then to the west. Invading each city, kingdom, and empire brutally one at a time. His empire, the great Mongolian Empire, expanded from the eastern coast of China to the west, reaching as far as Turkey. His brutal tactics and early version of a blitzkrieg, the Mongols were feared.

But to build an empire and fight almost everyday, protein is important to the diet of the Mongols. Being herders, they had a large supply of beef. But because most of the day, they were busy fighting enemies or besieging cities, or herding cattle in pastures, the men had no time to cook their beef. And so, the Mongols then placed their block of beef under their saddles and kept it there all day. As they rode, the galloping action tenderized the beef under the saddle. And when they they took it out in the night, it became easier to eat during for the men. The meat was eaten raw and sometimes joined with a white sauce made from curdled milk, later when they conquered India, they used yogurt, mixed with herbs.

In 1238, Kublai Khan invaded Russia. Many Mongols settled in the region and as time passed, they became known as the Tartars. The tradition of eating the tenderized meat and its sauce also continued to be practice. One of the centers in Russia during that period was the city of Novgorod. In the city of Novgorod, trade made the city a melting as various people of different ethnicity converge to make business. In the 13th century, German merchants of the Hanseatic League were the most usually seen in the city. They maintained strong ties with the city to access the lucrative fur trade of the region. Many of its merchants stayed until they finished their business. One time, merchants from the Hanseatic city of Hamburg arrived, they took notice of some Tartars eating tenderized meat alongside a white sauce. These Germans then took the idea and brought it back home to Hamburg. Eventually, they named the meat Tartar steak and the white sauce Tartar sauce.

And so, the Mongols should not just be thank for being the ancestor of almost 1/3 of the population of the whole world or for spreading the Black Plagued during the Middle Ages. They should also be credited for making the idea of tenderizing meat, which later became the Hamburger.  

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