A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 08, 2009
Mongolian Barbecue

"Mongolian barbecue” is neither “Mongolian” nor “barbecue.”

There is a barbecue tradition in Mongolia, but it is far different from the “Mongolian barbecue” found at restaurants. Whole animals (usually mutton) are barbecued over a fire. Hot stones are added inside the animal, so the meat is cooked both inside and outside.

“Mongolian barbecue” (also called ‘Genghis Khan barbecue” or “Kublai Khan barbecue,” after the famous Mongolian leaders) is actually the Japanese “teppan-yaki.” Meats and vegetables are grilled for a short time on a curved steel-topped grill, often cooked in front of the diners. Teppan-yaki cooking is said to have entered Japan in 1945 and was popularized by the New York-originated restaurant chain of Benihana.

Both Tokyo (Japan) and Taipei (Taiwan) had “Mongolian barbecue” by the late 1950s and early 1960s. In Tokyo, the famous Chinzan-so garden restaurant was cooking what observers called “Mongolian barbecue” by at least the late 1950s. Taiwan’s “Mongolian barbecue” at this time was being served at several restaurants and cannot be specifically identified with any one of them.

It is most probable that the dish known today as “Mongolian barbecue” originated in Beijing (also called Peiping or Peking) in the 1940s. The 1955 citation (below) stated that “Mongolian barbecue” was eaten at a multi-story Peiping restaurant “before the Communists took control” (about 1948). The 1954 citation (below) stated that Taiwan had imported the Peiping dish of “sliced mutton cooked in a chafing dish.”

The Chinese-American dish called “Mongolian beef” is not native to Mongolia, either.


Wikipedia: Mongolian barbecue
Mongolian barbecue (Chinese: 蒙古烤肉; pinyin: Měnggǔ kǎoròu) is a restaurant style of stir frying meats and vegetables over a large, round, solid iron griddle that is as large as 2.5 m in diameter and can cook at temperatures as high as 300 °C or 572 °F. Originally from Taiwan, it is neither Mongolian nor barbecue.

Origin
Mongolian barbecue first appeared in Taiwan in the middle to late 20th century. Although the stir-frying of meats on a large, open surface is supposed to evoke Mongolian cuisine, the preparation actually derives from Japanese-style teppanyaki which was popular in Taiwan at the time. “Mongolian” barbecue is not actually Mongolian at all; for examples of genuine Mongolian food, see buuz or khuushuur. A barbecue in Mongolia is prepared quite differently.

Notwithstanding the historic facts, BD’s Mongolian Barbeque claims that soldiers of the Mongol Empire gathered large quantities of meats, prepared them with their swords and cooked them on their overturned shields over a large fire, while a German restaurant chain with the same concept claims that the Mongolian soldiers cooked their meals on a heated stone.

Preparation
Typically, diners choose various ingredients from a buffet of thinly sliced raw meats and vegetables and assemble them in a large bowl or on a plate. These ingredients are given to the griddle operator who adds the diner’s choice of sauce and transfers them to one section of the hot griddle. Oil and sometimes water may be added to ease cooking, and the ingredients are stirred occasionally.

The ample size of the Mongolian barbecue griddle allows for several diners’ food to be cooked simultaneously on different parts of the griddle. In many restaurants (primarily buffets) one dish will be cooked at a time, the operator walking around the outside of the grill once or twice moving the food while walking. When cooking is complete, the finished dish is scooped into a bowl and handed to the diner.

Restaurants
In Taiwan, a number of restaurants exist that specialize in Mongolian barbecue with additional buffet items available as well. These establishments often have names evoking the Mongol Empire such as Great Khan (大可汗) or Temüjin (鐵木真). The peak popularity of these restaurants was in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the United States, Mongolian barbecue is often found in American Chinese buffet restaurants, but some businesses such as the BD’s Mongolian Barbeque chain focus primarily on the barbecue. Hu Hot, Genghis Grill, Y.C.’s Mongolian Grill and Hula’s are other chains of restaurants with this type of fare.

The Mongolian Barbeque is a chain with locations in Europe and the Middle East.

Wikipedia: Teppanyaki
Teppanyaki (鉄板焼き) is a type of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle (teppan) to cook food. Although it is viewed in the western world as Japanese cuisine, it is not popular in Japan except when used for okonomiyaki.

Etymology
The word ”teppanyaki” is derived from teppan (鉄板), which means iron plate, and yaki (焼き), which means fried or broiled.

Japan
In Japan, teppanyaki may refer to any of a number of dishes cooked using a teppan, including okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and monjayaki, frequently with the hot plate located in the center of the diners’ table.

Ingredients
Typical ingredients used for teppanyaki western style are beef, shrimp, scallops, lobster, chicken and assorted vegetables; Soybean oil is typically used to cook the ingredients, and for Japanese style are noodles (Yakisoba), cabbage with sliced meat or seafood (Okonomiyaki) which are cooked using regular vegetable oil, animal oil from fat or a mixture of both. In Japan, many teppanyaki restaurants feature Kobe beef. Side dishes of mung bean sprouts, zucchini (even though zucchini is not a popular vegetable in Japan and rarely found in the market), garlic chips or fried rice usually accompany the meal. Some restaurants provide sauces in which to dip the food. However, in Japan, only soy sauce is typically offered.

Origin
The originator of the teppanyaki-style steakhouse is the Japanese restaurant chain Misono, which introduced the concept of cooking Western-influenced food on a teppan in Japan in 1945. They soon found that the cuisine was even more popular with foreigners than with the Japanese, who enjoyed both watching the skilled maneuvers of the chefs preparing the food as well as the cuisine, somewhat more familiar than more traditional Japanese dishes. As the restaurants became more popular tourist spots with non-Japanese, the chain introduced changes increasing the performance aspect of the chef’s preparation, such as stacking round slices of onion in the shape of Mt. Fuji and lighting alcohol, usually vodka, contained within on fire, producing a flaming onion volcano. Non-tourists in Japan rarely eat at teppanyaki restaurants that feature western type of food as most of the ingredients are not part of the Japanese dietary system. The teppanyaki widely frequented by the Japanese are those which feature Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba or Monjayaki which are very popular in Japanese cuisine.
(...)
Another piece of equipment in the same family is a flattop grill, consisting of a flat piece of steel over circular burners and typically smaller and round like a Mongolian barbecue.

Chinzan-so (Tokyo, Japan)
Tokyo’s Japanese Garden Restaurant, Chinzan-so, is situated in a historical and scenic part of the city. The area, also known as “Camellia Mountain”, was the estate of Prince Aritomo Yamagata, a noted politician and state man during the Meiji Era(1868-1912). Naming his manor “Mansion on Camellia Mountain” it was the site of important govenrment meetings and conferences of which Emperor Meiji was a participant. Later, Baron Heitaro Fujita commissioned the construction of historic monuments and also developed the beautiful grounds.

The Chinzan-so Garden covering an area of upwards to 66,000 square meters is rich in historic remains and artifacts, all relics of the past that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Chinzan-so.

Google Books
Directory of Taiwan
By China News
Published by China News & Publication Service
1954
Pg. 130:
Another specialty reminiscent of Peiping restaurants is sliced mutton cooked in a chafing dish.

17 April 1955, Corpus Christi (TX) Caller-Times, “Texas Has Challenger In Mongolia Barbecue” by Anne Chambers, pg. 11C, col. 1:
The Sodts, vacationing in Peiping just before the Communists took control, tasted the Mongolian barbecue at a several storied restaurant where they had gone for dinner. Each floor of the restaurant represented a different type of food, with Mongolian meals served in a roof garden on top.

A small stove centered each of the round dining tables, and into it the cook placed thin strips of mutton, lamb, or beef, shreded vegetables, and a mixture of hot sauces. When this was done, he stuffed the mixture into little sesame seed buns, just like a barbecued beef on bun.

Google Books
All the Best in Japan, with Manila, Hong Kong, and Macao
By Sydney Clark
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company
1958
Pg. 108:
For the Genghis Khan barbecue, which is Mongolian fare at its superlative best, each guest is draped with a sort of butcher’s apron so that he may protect ...
(At Chinzan-so—ed.)

18 June 1958, New Castle (PA) News, pg.3 3, col. 2:
Formosa Makes
Bids For Tourists

TAIPEI—(UPI)—(...)
Food is cheap and plentiful. Restaurants specialize in the cuisine of the various Chinese regions—everything from Mongolian barbecue to Cantonese dumplings, pork, beef, chicken, and fish spiced and bedazzled with sauces that impart tastes as indescribable as a fourth primary color.

30 October 1958, Sioux County Capital (Orange City, Iowa), “Editor’s Mail” (October 9, 1958), pg. 10, col. 5:
Almost time to leave Japan so the pace quickens with farewells and last talks filling the days. (...) This took place at the Prince Hotel, a former home of another member of the nobility and was in the form of a Mongolian Barbecue.

There were four kinds of meat—beef, pork, mutton and chicken in that order and all the vegetables you can think of, broiled out of doors on about a dozen barbecue fires.

Google Books
Flight to Formosa:
A Holiday and Fact-finding Tour of Nationalist China’s Fortress of Freedom and the Ports of Hong Kong and Macao

By Frank Clune
Published by Angus and Robertson
1959
Pg. 232:
That afternoon, at the invitation of Mr Chu Hsin-min, Deputy Director of the Government Information Office, we attended a Mongolian barbecue celebration of the New Year.

26 October 1959, New York (NY) Times, pg. 32:
“I particularly enjoyed a Mongolian-style meal, which I suppose is not strictly Chinese. It reminded me of the Swiss fondue dishes. You cook the meat yourself at the table and then dip it into some wonderful sauces. The meat is generally mutton, which is not very common in China.”

Google Books
Taiwan Today, a Province of Republic of China
By Taiwan Hsing cheng yuan. Hsin wen chu, Taiwan, Xin wen chu
Published by Dept. of Information, Taiwan Provincial Government
1961
Pg. 5:
...seasoned dishes of Szechuan and Shang’hai to the hearty Mongolian barbecue.

Google Books
Directory of Taiwan
Published by China News
1961
Pg. 8:
... separated specialties ranging from delicate flavors of Cantonese and highly seasoned dishes of Szechuan and Shanghai to the hearty Mongolian barbecue.

6 April 1961, New York (NY) Times, “Director Stages Dinners in an Oriental Mood” by Craig Claiborne, pg. 38:
(Picture, then this photo caption—ed.)
Joshua Logan, the well-known theatrical personality, has spent considerable time in Japan and enjoys cooking oriental food specialties. One of his favorites is a Mongolian grill, which he is shown preparing on hibachi in one-room converted barn on his Connecticut property.
(...)
He was particularly fascinated by the Chinese restaurants in Tokyo, which he thinks are the finest in the world outside China, and by Mongolian restaurants, which, according to him, are to be found in every Japanese metropolis.

“They’re easy to find,” he said recently, “because most of them are known as “Genghis Khan.  The grills in the restaurants are generally curved, helmet-fashion, the original idea being that the Mongols used their metal headpieces for cooking.” (A recipe for “Mongolian Grill” follows—ed.)

Google Books
Impressions and experiences of the fifteenth general assembly of the Japan Medical Congress: Tokyo, April 1-5, 1959
By Nihon Igakkai, Tomio Ogata
Published by Tosho Insatsu Printing
1962
Pg. 263:
-- Chinzanso and memories of Ghenghis Khan barbecue —

Google Books
Olson’s Orient Guide
By Harvey S. Olsen
Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company
1962
Pg. 260 (JAPAN, Chinzanso, Avenue M near 15th): 
The specialty of the house is Genghis Khan barbecued beef and chicken which consists of grilled meats and fowl, and vegetables served for four or more persons who are seated at the table around a brazier.
Pg. 274 (TAIWAN): 
The MONGOLIAN BARBECUE, a colorful Chinese concoction from the Northlands, offers a generous feast, prepared with great flourish, and known, alternatively, as a Genghis Khan barbecue. The Mongolian barbecue brazier is more vigorous than the regular charcoal grill, shooting its searing flames skyward in a brillian display. The groaning hors d’oeuvres tables are generously decorated with platters of spicy, marinated raw beef, venison, wild boar, mutton, and heaping mounds of green uncooked vegetables. The diner makes his choice of the uncooked victuals, selects his all-important sauces and seasoning, and passes to the end of the table where he hands his choices to a clever chef presiding over the charcoal-filled broilers. The seething flames, the sizzling meats, and the spitting oils present an unusual sensory experience. When cooked, the Mongolian feast is something extraspecial for your chopsticks. As when coping with Swedish smorgasbord, you are expected to go back to the Mongolian grill again and again.Try rice wine with the Mongolian barbecue. It is taste stimulating and, while it seems weak, has a high degree of potency.

15 August 1962, Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 14, col. 3:
Chinsanzo, Tokyo
(Mongolian Barbecue in Garden)

Google Books
Fodor’s Japan and East Asia
Edited by Eugene Fodor and Robert C. Fisher
New York, NY: David McKay, Inc.
1963
Pg. 182:
There is a bar, a rock garden on the roof, which also supports Mongolian tents for Genghis Khan barbecue, and a good view of downtown Tokyo.
Pg. 183:
Sky Room: A most attractive room which specializes in Genghis Khan barbecue (charcoal broiled lamb).

Gourmet International’s Recommended Restaurants of San Francisco
Edited by Leonce Picot
Fort Lauderdale, FL: Gourmet International
1963
Pg. 94:
GOBI INN
The Gobi Inn is a treasure trove of adventures in Chinese cuisine, offering the less known Northern Chinese dishes as well as the more familiar Cantonese preparations. With keen insight Mr. Chen and Mr. Lee most astutuely have incorporated high adventure into their menu through the introduction of the Ghenghis Khan Fire Pot and Kublai Khan barbecue.

A method of food perparation that dates back to the days of the nomadic Mongolians that roved the Gobi Desert, the Fire Pot itself is a utensil which has comprised a portable kitchen to the orientals for centuries. (...)
(Pg. 95—ed.)
The Kublai Khan barbecue is a mixture of beef mixed with Chinese parsley and/or green onions and spiked with any combination of exotic sauces available such as soy sauce, sweet Chinese cooking wine, hot garlic sauce and a very hot chili oil. Served with Chinese buns, this may be eaten as a sandwich. (...)
MISSION BETWEEN OCEAN AND 7TH, CARMEL BY THE SEA.

6 December 1963, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, ‘Try Mongolian Barbecue For Adventurous Eating” by George Hall, pg. 30, cols. 3-5:
Want to try something new in patio cooking?

Served one of the oldest dishes in the world, a Mongolian barbecue, which combines meat, greens, seasonings and bread in an Oreitnal taste treat.

I spent an evening at a Mongolian babebcue in Taipei on the beautiful island of Taiwan and was thrilled with the most unusual mode of food preparation I have seen in travels over the last several years.
(...)
Going back to the buffet, I found five refrigerated platters of meats cut like a filet but sliced almost paper thin. Each platter was labeled—venison, pork, beef, mutton and wild boar.

You choose whichever meats and whatever amounts you want—mix them or stick to one kind—and put them in a bowl.

Next in line are bowls of lettuce, romaine, sliced bell peppers, spring onions, bamboo shoots, sliced water chestnuts, and several other kinds of greenery I didn’t recognize. Again, you put what you wish of this in your bowl.

Now you come to the sauces and marinades—a row of jars and bowls that contain sesame oil, wine, water, sugar, ginger, fish oil, vinegar, salt, powdered chili, hot oil and several more. An assortment of this is added to the meat and greens.
(...)
After the bowl is filled with the mixture of your choice, you take it outside where white-clad Chinese chefs preside over the cooking device. The barbecues are slightly domed sheets of metal with coals glowing below them. All around the sides are holes for ait, and out of which flame shoots. The chef’s tools are simply oversized chop sticks.

After mixing up your bowl of food, he turns it onto the cooking surface and deftly works it back and forth and twirls it with chop sticks.

A cloud of delicious smelling vapor arises, and it takes but a few minutes to cook the thinly sliced meats—even protected as they are by the oils and creams.

The chef scoops the now hot and browned mixture into a heap, puts it back in your bowl and you go back into the restaurant to eat it—or eat it at one of the outdoor tables along the river if you prefer.

Now at your table you’ll find someone has placed a couple of folded, flat, seasme-seed covered roll about he size of your palm. Usingthe chop sticks at the table, you stuff the mixture into the folds of the rolls, like a little Mexican burro, Oriental style.

Google Books
Two Worlds Or None:
Rediscovering Missions

By William J. Danker
New York, NY: Concordia Publishing House
1964
Pg. 226:
One of the warmest times of fellowship we enjoyed in Japan was the Mongolian barbecue with missionaries in Sapporo.

Google Books
Travel Guide to the Orient and the Pacific
By Myra Waldo
New York, NY: Macmillan
1965
Pg. 93:
Another name is “Genghis Khan barbecue,” because it is said to have originated with the great conqueror’s armies. The barbecue consists of lamb or pork, plus chicken and beef, cooked in front of you by a waitress.

Google Books
McKay’s Guide to the Far East and Hawaii
By Eleanor Cowles Gellhorn
New York, NY: David McKay Co.
1965
Pg 353 (Taiwan):
Miscellaneous: Mongolian Barbecue — Don’t miss this. You fill your own bowl with a choice of various things such as shreds of wild boar, venison, beef, lamb,...

30 September 1965, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 13D, col. 1:
MARCO POLO, Jack London Square. Scheduled for a December opening date, this elaborate dinner house will offer many specialties from throughout China including Mongolian barbecue.

January/February 1966, Paradise of the Pacific, pg. 32:
THE BROIL IT YOURSELF BARBECUE
(...)
The chef-general was Genghis Khan and the brown-and-serve method of cooking he improvised bears his name today in a number of fashionable restaurants throughout the Pacific. The mode of cooking has at last landed under the American flag and in Hawaii there are no less than three restaurants offering a Mongolian menu: Furusato’s, Kaneda’s and the elegant Kahala Hilton.

Google Books
Hong Kong: Crossroads of the Orient:
A Comprehensive Survey for the Enterprising Businessman

By Zacharias Swanepoel
Published by Nasionale Boekhandel
1967
Pg. 9:
Typical Northern Chinese food called Mongolian barbecue is easy to find.

Google Books
Pearls and Dragons
By Susan Graham
Published by A. H. & A. W. Reed
1968
Pg. 73:
This is the Genghis Khan Mongolian barbecue at the world- famous Chinzanso garden restaurant,...

9 December 1968, New York (NY) Times, “Tokyo’s Restaurants: You Don’t Have to Know the Language, but It Helps” by Craig Claiborne, pg. 56:
The food at the Chinzan-so is of the sort known as Genghis-Khan, and it is outstanding if you like grilled dishes. They say this kind of cooking has been popular for centuries; since the days of the Mongolian king when his tribesmen cooked meat on their preheated helmets. There are individual metal grills at each table fired by gas jets. Waitresses in modern dress preside over the grilling ceremony; the foods, grilled to perfection, dipped in a sauce made with soy and condiments, are served directly from grill to plate.

Eating Out in Chinese Restaurants:
A Guide to Ordering Chinese Food

Singapore: Asia Pacific Press
1972
Pg. 16:  Mongolian Hot Pot.
Pg. 17:  Mongolian Barbecue.

October 1976, Dallas (TX) Yellow Pages telephone directory, pg. 1266, col. 4:
Genghis Khan
Mongolia Feast
SERVING MOGOLIAN BARBEQUE
ORIGINAL DISH DEVELOPED BY NOMADIC MONGOLIANS
361-0280
4830 Greenville

Google Books
Globalization, Economic Development and Inequality: An Alternative Perspective
By Erik S. Reinert
Published by Edward Elgar Publishing
2004
Pg. 174:
The true Monglian barbecue—as opposed to the mock Mongolian barbecue that has spread in the Western world during recent years—consists of whole animals roasted over the fire. The special local feature is that boiling hot stones are added inside the animal in order to cook the meat from both sides. The hot stones from this process are given to the arriving guests so they can warm up.

San Francisco Bay Area - Chowhound
is there that much difference in ‘mongolian bbq’? i think the individual’s selection of ingredients is the most critical thing with these places.

in mongolia, ‘bbq’ consists of fire-heated rocks tossed into a big steel canister with hunks of freshly slaughtered mutton. they roll it, wait a bit, then presto. this is in contrast to the more work-a-day mutton stew, which is simply cut up and boiled on the iron woodstove in the middle of the ger (yurt). mongolians have an incredibly durable cheese, various forms of yogurt, and take their tea with a bit of salt and butter. the things they have borrowed from their neighbors are mantoh (chinese steamed bread), pozi (bao tze, chinese meat buns), and vodka (it’s a very cold country).

i’m not sure, but i think what america knows as ‘mongolian bbq’ might be what the chinese general charged with subduing said mongols served his troops on campaign. many chinese generals, it is sad but interesting to note, are remembered solely for their cuisine.
ed Feb 10, 2004 05:07PM
(...)
“Mongolian barbecue” is actually from Japan by way of Taiwan. Nothing to do with Mongolia, that was just a marketing gimmick a Taiwanese teppanyaki chain came up with in the 1950s.
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/431199
Robert Lauriston Sep 17, 2007 08:51AM

Food Media and News - Chowhound
“The Secret Life of ...” on Mongolian Barbecue
An “International Barbecue” episode of this Food Network show said that “Mongolian” BBQ started in Taiwan in the 1950s and brought from there to the US in the 1970s.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_…
Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2007 11:34AM
(...)
“Mongolian barbecue” is really Taiwanese teppanyaki.
Robert Lauriston Aug 14, 2007 03:34PM

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, January 08, 2009 • Permalink