It is well known that culinary traditions of various nations develop under the influence of two conditions: historical and geographical. A nomadic lifestyle, severe conditions of living in the desert - all these factors affected Turkmenistan cuisine formation and culinary traditions. One of the main features of the Turkmenistan cuisine is simplicity and affordability in terms of both products choice and cooking methods.
The most popular dish in Turkmenistan is pilav. It is cooked from lamb, carrots, rice and onions. Shurpa is another widespread dish - mutton broth with potatoes and tomatoes.
Turkmen have a special attitude toward bread. Cooking national bread - chorek - there is an art in itself. Tandyr (a clay oven) where chorek is baked is considered the most sacred place in a house and chorek itself has been always honored as a protecting charm.
As any other country in Central Asia, Turkmenistan is unprecedentedly rich in delicious fruits and vegetables. World famous are Turkmen melons with their honey odor which were exported even during pre-Islamic times.
Turkmen national cuisine has a lot in common with cuisines of other Central Asian countries, Uzbek and Karakalpak in particular. However, it differs from them in a number of features. It is mainly distinguished by a variety of fish dishes owing to the country's proximity to the Caspian Sea.
Unlike Uzbeks and Tajiks Turkmen people use much less vegetables. Radish and tomatoes are used more often. Onions is a must. It is eaten raw and used as a seasoning. Pumpkins and carrots are rarely used; mash - even rare.
The used spices slightly differ from the ones used in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Turkmen widely use red and black pepper, mint, wild parsley, azhgon, buzhgun (galls of a pistachio tree). Instead of curcuma Turkmen use saffron and garlic.
Turkmen Farinaceous Dishes
Turkmen food is distinguished by various dishes made from flour. Traditional bread is called chorek. Very popular farinaceous dishes are various flatbreads from the sour dough (katlama), patties (gutap) with different stuffings; meat cakes (etli nan). Unleavened dough is used for cooking pel'meni (borek) and noodles (unash) seasoned with sour milk.
Like the rest of Asian nations Turkmen drink a lot of tea. Green tea - gok chai - is drunk all the year round. Black tea - gara - which Turkmen drink mainly in autumn and in winter is more popular in the West.
Turkmen Dairy Dishes
Most Turkmen dairy products are served with soups and main courses. Turkmen prefer camel and sheep milk. It is used as the basis for fermented dairy products. The most known Turkmen dairy products are "agaran", "chal", "kara gurt", "telemeh", "sykman", "sargan".
Turkmen Fish Dishes
Fish dishes are popular among Turkmen living on the shores of the Caspian Sea. They mainly use sturgeon, beluga, herring, stellate sturgeon and as well as sea and river pike perch, catfish, mullet, sazan and kutum. Even pilav there is cooked with fish.
Turkmen Holiday Dishes
It is a well known fact that central Asian people consider pilav the King of feasts. It is not absolutely so. Except for pilav Turkmen also cook other holiday dishes which their ancestors preferred for especially important events.
Turkmen Meat Dishes
Cattle husbandry has resulted in the fact that Turkmen meat dishes are the most important in the national cuisine. Turkmen prefer mutton to all other meats. Besides, they use a lot of chicken meat and do not eat horse meat and pork at all. Turkmen cook basically on mutton fat and sesame oil which they use not only at cooking meat dishes but also farinaceous and sweet ones.
Turkmen Poultry Dishes
Trans-Caspian Turkmen are known for great poultry dishes cooked from water fowl - ducks, geese. Stewed Stuffed Poultry is a traditional dish of Trans-Caspian Turkmen. You can try it in any restaurant.
Traditional soups in Turkmen cuisine: shurpa, dogroma chorba, unash, umpach-zashchi, gara chorba, mastava, kyufta-shurpa.
Turkmen sweets are mainly similar to the traditional sweets of the peoples of Central Asia, Turkey and the Caucasus. Of special note among them are halva, baklava, sherbet, navat, and bekmesam.