Food in Kazakhstan is certainly unique. For the most, the former Soviet country relies on gastronomic traditions from the times of nomadic travellers. Food is heavily based on meat and dairy with boiling and as an effective method of food preparation. Because many people rely or have relied on cattle as a means of subsistence, meat like lamb and mutton is very common and used in many meat dishes originating from Kazakhstan. When it comes to dairy anything from cows milk to the camel is typically used and a variety of cheeses and milk based dishes are also very common. So if you’re looking to get a taste of Kazakhstani food, here are some of the most traditional food in Kazakhstan.
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Chechil is a stringed cheese that’s been soaked in brine. The consistency of the cheese mirrors something similar to mozzarella. The way it’s made is that the cheese is produced densely into strings, woven in a figure-eight shaped form. After that, it is soaked in brine for a while and also sometimes smoked before eating. Chechil is commonly found in pubs and bars as a snack when you’re drinking and is also commonly found in countries around Kazakhstan like Russia.
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Coming in for people with a sweet tooth is Chook-Chook. Chook-Chook is a common sweet treat that is little bits of dough, that’s then fried and covered in a sticky sugary glaze. It’s commonly found in most supermarkets and if you’re planning on eating some, make sure to bring a couple of napkins as you’ll probably get your hands nice and sticky after eating this.
Beshbarmak might as well be the national dish of Kazakhstan because not only is it a delicious local dish but it is also deep-rooted in Kazakh customs. The term “Beshbarmak” means “five fingers” because the nomads used to eat this dish with their hands. The dish itself consists of meat (usually the rump of a selected animal) and homemade pasta. Alongside the meat and noodles is a broth called “Shorpo” which is typically consumed before the main Beshbarmak dish. To be invited to sit and eat at a table while they’re eating this is considered to be an honour so don’t take this meal lightly. As a result, it’s typically a dish that is prepared for special occasions.
4. Sorpa Airan
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Sorpa Airan is a cross between yoghurt and soup. “Sorpa” is generally a soup/broth-like brink that’s typically had with Beshbarmak that is usually a salty broth with savoury qualities to it. Sorpa Airan, however, is more akin to a drinkable yoghurt variation prepared from fermented cow milk.
Known to have terrific health qualities Shubat is fermented camel milk. Dairy is a large part of Kazakh cuisine and Shubat is known to have a bit of a sour taste as the fermentation process takes a couple of days. The drink is typically consumed during the summer months and since it has a short shelf life, it’s pretty hard to come across the drink outside the country. It can be commonly found in many shops and restaurants around the country. At least you know it’s always fresh
Just about every civilisation has its variation of a flatbread and in Kazakhstan and the surrounding areas that bread is known as Shelpek. Shelpek is commonly found throughout central Asia and consumed just about anywhere as a bread staple to any dish. The dough consists of milk, flour, sugar, butter, baking soda, sour cream, and salt, then it’s shaped and then fried until it reaches a golden brown colour.
Kurt is a little lump of dehydrated salty cheese. Usually made by dehydrating sour cream then formed into a ball. The snack has its origins with sheep herders of the Steppe who would carry the salty little cheese balls as means of nourishment while herding. Kurt can be found in any typical supermarket for pretty cheap (usually under 1 USD) and nowadays instead of finding it in the canteens of sheepherders people usually keep it in their desks or briefcases to eat as a midday snack.
Baursak is a Kazakh national dish that can be customized to either a persons taste for sweet or not. The dish is compared to a doughnut with spherical or triangular pieces of dough which are then fried in oil. Baursaks are typically found during major events like weddings, parties, memorials and the like. There’s even a Kazakh superstition that the smell from the fried dough carries to heaven where your demised loved ones can take in the aroma together with you.
Kazy is a horse meat sausage made with an intestinal outer lining. Chunks of meat and fat are stuffed inside and although the dish may not sound the most appealing to Westerners, it is a common type of sausage found in the area. Kazy is typically eaten during special occasions and is not commonly found as “everyday” dish and so it is considered a treat and is a bit expensive.
Halva is not only popular in and around Central Asia but it is also found around places like Europe in the Balkans, Turkey and among Jewish communities around the globe. Of course, they all have different variations of it but Halva is essentially a sweetened sunflower seed paste eaten with tea. Variations of it include sweet versions like chocolate and raisins or savoury variations with lentils, beans and carrots.
Kazakhstan is a large country that both is steeped in traditions but also takes those traditions and uses it to look into the future. As the country grows much of it stays the same. The culture, the people and food might not have changed much but the ways in which the people interact with them do. From traditional meals like Beshbarmak that are centuries old to the delish dessert of Baursak, these traditional meals have been around for ages. People might come and go, but the food lasts eternally.
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