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Loving Hut Mongolia: Saving Your Wallet

By Michelle Tolson

In my estimation the cheapest and healthiest food in all of Ulaanbaatar can be found at the Loving Hut franchises. Main dishes and large soups usually cost about 3000 MNT. Where else can people earning a local salary go to eat out? As many of us are away from home for hours while working, it helps to find affordable places to eat. Another pleasant aspect of the Loving Hut franchises is the choice of vegetables and non-meat protein. I have run out of ideas when it comes to how prepare cabbage and carrots, so I enjoy being able to eat someone else’s version of them.
The Loving Hut is actually an international franchise with over 200 locations in major cities countries in Asia, Europe, South America, North America and Australia, according to their website. In the US, they have over 40 restaurants in cities across the country. At most Loving Huts in Ulaanbaatar, you will find a flat-screen TV with a video loop that features Supreme Grand Master Ching Hai discussing aspects of the vegetarian lifestyle dubbed in Mongolian—the greatest benefits seem to include “saving the planet” and improving your health. Does this message make sense considering Mongolia’s livestock runs free? The United Nations Development Report (UNDP) for Mongolia shows that the country’s environment has been severely degraded in the past twenty years due to over-grazing and poor land-use management. During Soviet times, the size of herds was much smaller, having boomed only when the communist-supported industrial sector collapsed. After 1990, unemployment went up and many Mongolians returned to the herder lifestyle, while the previous socialist herder collectives went by the way-side. This resulted in larger privately-owned herds as a hedge against tough times, like the “zuds” and droughts which periodically plague the country—though unfortunately unsustainable herding practices contribute to the climate changes, according to UNDP reports. With this in mind, the logic behind the Loving Huts franchises’ targeted message to Mongolia is easy to understand. And the restaurants are delicious.
My favorite Loving Huts:
The Tourist Street Loving Hut, past the Zanabazar Museum, going east towards the government building is well-priced and convenient. My favorite dishes are the massive bowl of Tomato Soup with a dollop of “sour cream” (likely vegan) tofu and vegetables (2800 MNT); the veggie-“meat” cutlet with mashed potatoes on top and a side dish of rice and vegetables (4000 MNT), and the shredded beet salad with tofu (2800 MNT). The sea buckthorn juice for 1000 MNT is a refreshing accompaniment.
The Loving Hut across the Sukhbaatar Square and up a few flights of stairs in the yellow building next to the Blue Sky Tower and is a down-home franchise. It’s large and simple inside and strictly no frills. I order the mashed potato with veggie meat cutlet, a side dish of shredded carrot salad and a sea buckthorn juice for about 5000 MNT.
The Loving Hut at the top of the Ring Road—past the school number five and near Talk Talk English can feed you well with just a few thousand tugrug. The menu is diverse and priced for locals. A friend thinks that they are one of the only franchises to serve Russian piroshkies.
The Vegan Lounge off Seoul Street, next the entry to the Japanese Bridge—currently closed apparently due to the construction on the road—is also a Loving Hut franchise. Previously reviewed by the UB Post, it offers a very diverse menu of dishes themed from Italian, Russian, and Indian to Mongolian, all for a few thousand tugrug. I hope it opens soon again.
My newest Loving Hut discovery comes from the advice of a friend. Located within the grounds of a monastery behind Raffles International Institute, it is off a street running north of Tourist street, directly up from the Mongol News building. This tiny, cute and cozy establishment oozes relaxation and comfort. The menu is written in English and Mongolian on a plastic white board in felt pens. There are a few tables on each side of the boxy little café but it is easy-going and friendly. My friend told me that one day it was completely filled with monks from the monastery so he had to wait for a seat outside. The wait must have felt pleasurable as the outside area is a garden that surrounds the monastery with flowers growing past the fences that contain them, like all of Mongolia’s gardens: wild and free.
My friend recommended the “Ocean Soup” which has seaweed, radish, potato, and tofu (2700 MNT) resting in a tasty broth. I topped it off with a “juice” with berries bobbing in the bottom of the pitcher (500 MNT). I would have happily sampled something more but felt pretty full for just 3000 MNT spent.
The rest of the menu features soups which range from 2000-3000 MNT. The milk soup came in a large black crock, like my ocean soup, and had cabbage, tofu and vegetables. I had eyed this one being served to another customer before settling on mine. There is a Cream Soup with brown mushrooms; and a Hot Pepper Soup listed on the white board.
Main dishes are: Jelly sticks with Vegetables and protein-meat (2700 MNT), mushroom-fries with protein-meat (2800 MNT), fried potato with vegetables and fries (2800 MNT), and rice and vegetable and protein-meat (2700 MNT).
The salads include carrot (1500 MNT), cabbage (1300 MNT), “city salad” (1900 MNT) and the vegetable salad (2000 MNT). One of the last two has cucumber, tomato and vegetable according the server, though confused expat that I am, I am not sure which one.
My friend who told me about this location says “everything on the menu is good.” With prices like that, I am eager to try them all.

Loving Hut franchises: Rumored to have one in every aimag (province) in Mongolia. I have seen a vegetarian café at the Zamiin Uud station at the Chinese border, though it is never open when I am held hostage by the train ticket lines. I have also eaten at the one in Erdenet. In Ulaanbaatar there are supposed to be about twenty vegetarian restaurants, the majority of which are part of the Loving Hut group, subtracting Govinda’s (run by a Hare Krishna group) and Luna Blanca. To learn more about Loving Hut, visit their website: www.lovinghut.us

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=1120

Posted by on Sep 24 2012. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “Loving Hut Mongolia: Saving Your Wallet”

  1. I’m trying to reach journalist Michelle Tolson who reports on the new veggie chain Loving Hut in UB news…for a possible BBC radio interview. Please email me ASAP. Appreciatively, DL

  2. I like the idea of vegan restaurants in Mongolia, but I wish they weren’t connected to a cult that bilks a lot of money out of its followers. Many Loving Hut franchisees have gone bankrupt trying to keep their restaurants open. They have to follow rules about suppliers (connected to the cult’s businesses) and their franchise fees are hefty. It’s one of the major revenue sources for the cult, and most of their restaurants are in developing nations that already have traditional vegetarian food cultures – Buddhist temple food.

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