For the Mongolians with free-mounted life-style, the horse is irreplaceable necessities of life, friend and war weapon. Besides being main transportation or riding animal, the mare’s milk plays important part in Mongolian foodstuff. Fermented Mare’s milk what we call Airag is the traditional national beverage of Mongolia. The most beloved animal of the Mongols is the horse.
Traditionally, Mare's milk is not directly consumed in raw; because it tends to have a strong laxative effect (that effect can also be applied for medical treatment). Instead, it almost always gets fermented into Airag. But in the recent years, we are becoming ready to drink because of its health status. Fermentation destroys the lactose in milk, converting it into lactic acid, ethanol, and carbon dioxide. This makes Airag acceptable for lactose intolerant people, which includes many Mongolians. Without fermentation, mare's milk tends to contain more lactose compared with milk from cows or yaks.
In order to make Airag, first the milk should be filtered with a cloth, then poured into a large open leather sack (Khukhuur), which is usually hang to the right side of the yurt. But in modern time, people tend to use plastic container, in which the Airag is stirred by hand hundreds of times. The process should to be repeated regularly over one or two days. The nature of stirring with that long is that all parts of the milk are fermented equally. Traditionally, anyone entering or leaving the yurt is supposed to give hand stirring. The fermentation process is caused by a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast.
It contains a small amount of carbon dioxide, and up to 2% of alcohol. The taste is slightly sour, but quite agreeable after getting used to it. The exact taste depends both of the characteristics of the pastures and the exact method of production. The beverage is a rich source of vitamins and minerals for the nomads. The invited people or guests normally empties the bowl of Airag, but it is also okay to just take a sip and give back to the host. It would impolite to reject without tasting it.