Mongolian BBQ 

801 N. 8th St., 208-433-9334, Open Sun.-Thurs. 10:45 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10:45 a.m.-10 p.m.

HYPOTHESIS: Mongolian BBQ and Grill is a restaurant in the heart of downtown Boise--located on the corner of 8th and Bannock streets. Researchers disagree on the origins of this unique style of food preparation the restaurant employs. Some hold the contention that it is neither BBQ nor Mongolian, but rather a type of stir-fry that originated in Tawain in the mid-20th century. Others insist that the Mongolian BBQ style of cooking was invented in China's Shantung Provine and that Genghis Kahn (a Mongolian warlord) adopted it in the 13th century.

At Mongolian BBQ, patrons grab a bowl and select from a variety of fresh ingredients including nearly 20 different vegetables, four types of meats, bean thread noodles and over 10 sauces and oils. After selecting the desired items, the bowl is handed off to a chef who cooks the food over a large and very hot (approximately 300 degrees Celcius) grilling plate with the help of a 3-foot sword. Ingredients are cooked rapidly, placed back into a bowl, then handed off to the patron.

This scientific investigation tested the hypothesis that Mongolian BBQ tastes better on the second day (i.e., after the food has been taken home in a box and re-warmed).

METHODS: I visited Mongolian BBQ on a busy Wednesday night, choosing to sit inside rather than on the patio. While I was selecting my ingredients, a cheery woman came by and asked if I would like something to drink. I chose an Alaskan Amber from their significant selection of beers (n greater than 12). She brought my beer and a small bowl of cooled pork-fried rice. For my dish I chose an arrangement of thin, fresh chicken slices, tomatoes, mushrooms, noodles, cucumbers and two ladles full of red pepper sauce and BBQ sauce. When I handed my bowl off to the cook, he manipulated the ingredients with deft precision, eventually dumping the cooked items back in the bowl with one fast slice of his sword. I then sat down and ate approximately half of my meal. I then took the remaining food home and ate it the next day, choosing to re-warm it in the microwave.

RESULTS: As an avid fan of anything with noodles, I was happy. The following day, the food was more appetizing than the day of my visit. The red pepper sauce had completely infiltrated every last molecule in the Mongolian concoction--creating a spicy, albeit a bit soggy, feast. Just the way I like it.

DISCUSSION: Though my visit to Mongolian BBQ was primarily done in investigation of the proposed hypothesis, there are other aspects of my visit that deserve mention: 1) bowls were cheap--mine was $6.95--as were beers (Alaskan Amber, $2.95). 2) Service was adequate but pleasant--there wasn't much small talk between the waitress and myself, so if you are looking for a lot of interaction, you should go elsewhere. 3) The place was clean, which is always a good thing.

My hypothesis was supported--my dinner tasted better the day after--but due to a number of factors, including an extremely small sample size, further research is recommended. Some areas of consideration include different ingredient combinations, comparisons between vegetarian and meat-heavy dishes, and research as to how to maximize the amount of food placed in the bowl without angering the griller. This researcher feels that piling on the noodles last may help in this arena as the noodles seem to act as a type of edible glue.

--Ryan Peck failed miserably at grilling noodles on his laptop.

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