Popular dishes in Kyrgyzstan
Beshbarkmak: Perhaps the most typical Kyrgyz dish. This dish is meant to be eaten with the hands, not with a knife and fork - besh means five, and barmak means finger. Beshbarmak is served when guests arrive, and at almost any festive gathering. There is quite a ritual involved in preparing the meal. The simple version of the dish consists of noodles, which are mixed with boiled meat cut into tiny pieces and served with a medium-spicy sauce. Bouillon is then poured over the mixture. Generally, a sheep is slaughtered, butchered, and boiled in a large kazan (round pot) for a couple hours. The bones with the meat still on them are then distributed to the assembled gathering. The oldest people and honored guests are presented with the choicest bones first. The guest of honor is presented with the head and sheep’s eyes. To the old men, the aksakals, go the thigh bone (jambash), and to the older women goes the fat tail (kuiruk). The legs and shoulders are distributed to the young adults present, and the smaller bones are reserved for the daughter-in-law of the household. Some meat is diced and mixed in with boiled noodles. Beshbarmak can also be made with horse meat.
Ashlam-fu: A spicy dish made with cold noodles, jelly, vinegar, and eggs. Popular in the summer, as a light and refreshing meal in hot weather.
Chuchvara: Meat dumplings served in soup. Sour cream can be served as a dressing. (See pelmeni, below.)
Blini: Thin Russian pancakes, rolled and served with meat, cottage cheese, or jam. Can be sweet or savory, and are popular snacks.
Dimlama: A hearty dish of stewed potatoes, meat, sweet peppers, cabbage, carrots, and spices.
Jarkop: Stewed meat cooked with onions, radish and noodles, placed on boiled pieces of dough.
Kerchoo: Meat cooked in a fire, like a barbeque.
Kurut: Small balls made of dried sheep’s cheese or yogurt. Can be diluted with water to make chalap, a popular summer drink (though the taste may be an acquired one).
Kuiruk Boor: A snack made of cooked sheep’s bacon and liver, sprinkled with herbs.
Kuurdak: Can be prepared from either mutton or beef. The meat is fried with onion and spices, and is served on a plate with boiled potatoes and garnished with herbs.
Lagman: A spicy Uyghur dish of thick, long noodles, served with small pieces of mutton and vegetables.
Lepeshki: These round loaves of bread (pronounced lep-YO-shki) can be found stacked high on any table. Lepeshki are baked in a tandyr (tandoori) oven, and torn apart with the hands to be passed to every guest.
Manty: Steamed dumplings filled with meat (and sometimes potatoes or pumpkins), sometimes eaten with the fingers. Sometimes the meat can be fatty or gristly.
Olovo: A dish cooked for especially honored guests consisting of a sheep’s lungs marinated in a mix of milk, spices, salt and oil.
Oromo: Shredded meat, and sometimes potatoes, onions, or other vegetables, are spread between layers of thin dough, which is then rolled into a circle and steamed. Similar to lasagna, minus the cheese and tomato sauce.
Pelmeni: A Russian dumpling that is served with sour cream, and with or without broth.
Piroshki: Flat, fried dough filled with meat, potatoes, cabbage or sometimes nothing, commonly sold as snacks on streets.
Plov: Rice mixed with boiled or fried meat, plus onions, carrots and garlic, all cooked in a semi-hemispherical metal bowl, called a kazan. Southern Kyrgyzstan is famous for its plov, though no large dinner or celebration would be considered complete without at least one serving.
Samsa or Samsy: Larger meat dumplings cooked in a tandyr (tandoori) clay oven. Be aware of the heat and fatty juice that squirts out when you bite into one.
Shashlyk or Kebabs: Cubes of meat on skewers cooked over embers. Mutton is the most common, but shashlyk made from beef, chicken, liver or even pork can be found. The meat may have been freshly sliced or marinated for a period. Usually, one or even several pieces on the skewer may be pure fat, which drips onto the embers as the skewer cooks and improves the taste. Shashlyk is usually served with raw onions, vinegar, and bread.