Kyrgyz cuisine

If you ask me to describe Kyrgyz food in two words, I’ll say: “Meat and Dough”. If you want to see a group of people from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan fight and argue with each other, simply ask about their traditional cuisine. Each nation wants to believe that all the dishes listed below truly belong to them but it would be hard to prove. Also, when you are in Kyrgyzstan you’ll find that many families and cafes serve Russian food. In general, the basic concept behind our cuisine is: easy to make, no extraordinary products (cheap), very filling and zero percent healthy (we live only once, to hell with healthy food).

Plov

Plov is typical meal for south Kyrgyzstan. Made from local Uzgen rice. Photo by Michal Hertlik.
Plov is typical meal for south Kyrgyzstan. Made from local Uzgen rice. Photo by Michal Hertlik.

You’ll see this dish on every menu, and if somebody invites you over then expect to have Plov (pronounced plof) for dinner. The dish is made of rice, meat, onion and carrot. See the recipe here: Click. There are different variations of this dish, sometimes you’ll see that people add raisins or other dried fruits.

Dymdama

Almost the only dish that has a nice variety of vegetables (cabbage, potatoes, pepper, tomatoes, carrots) and the essential ingredient: meat. It is the easiest dish to prepare and that’s why it is my favorite one. See the basic recipe here: Click.

Shorpo

We want to believe that Shorpo is a very special soup found nowhere else on earth. However, in reality it is a very simple soup that you can cook if you have fresh lamb (on the bone). One tomato, one potato, one onion and as much meat as you can afford. 

Besh-Barmak

This dish is my least favorite as it has just dough and meat but it takes ages to make. I would not recommend ordering this in a cafe as this dish has to be homemade otherwise you will find it boring and bland. 

Manti

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Manti are prepared in many variations. The stuffing depends on the season of the year. Photo by Michal Hertlik.

Similar to Chinese dumplings. There are various fillings and the most popular are (obviously): meat and potatoes, meat and onion, pumpkin and onion, chives. You’ll need some dexterity to work with the dough and a special multi-level steamer called “manti qasqon” or “mantishnica”. I love Manti especially with pumpkin, so when you are in Kyrgyzstan ask for Manti in any cafe. See the recipe here: Click

Oromo

Oromo. Photo by Michal Hertlik.
Oromo. Photo by Michal Hertlik.

Another dish that requires some skills and a multi-lever steamer. Oromo is one of my favorite dishes and I always ask my mother to cook it for me when I come to visit. There are also different variations but the most popular is of course meat, onion and potatoes. See the recipe here: Click.

Lagman

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Gyuro lagman is one of three main variations of lagman. Photo by Michal Hertlik.

Our version of pasta with a Chinese twist.

Lepeshka

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Different types of lepeshka are sold at every bazzar in the country. Photo by Michal Hertlik.

Traditional Kyrgyz bread that is normally made in a Tandoor. The recipe doesn’t have any extraordinary ingredients: yeast, water, flour, salt. However to make a real Lepeshka you need a Tandoor, and I’m guessing you don’t have one at home. Another reason to come here!

Borsook

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Borsoks served with kaymak (sour cream) are served at welcome greeting ceremony in Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Michal Hertlik.

A kind of bread puff, that takes a lot of time to make. The real reason for Borsook is that you can spread it around on the table cloth, giving your table that “feast” look. Normally, me or my family cook Borsook only for special occasions and I do not find it very delicious or unique, it is just bread, but try it yourself and see whether I am right or not. I would never dare to make Borsook on my own but to be honest I do not like cooking much so if you love cooking, here is the recipe: Click.

Samsa

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Visiting south regions of Kyrygzstan, don’t miss the chance to try tasty and hot samsi. Photo by Michal Hertlik.


If you like Indian food, then Samsa will remind you of Samosa but with less seasoning and a simpler taste. There are also different variations of fillings: meat and potatoes, pumpkin and onion, potatoes and onion, cheese, etc. Pumpkin and onion is my favorite one. See the recipe here: Click.

Kurut

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Kurut, the very specific taste of Kyrgyzstan, which you must try 🙂 Photo by Michal Hertlik.

Kyrgyz traditional snack that every kid loves including me. If you assume that kids love only sweet things, then you are wrong. Kurut is made of fermented mare’s milk and salt. Nothing else. If you want to imagine the taste of Kurut, then go to the kitchen, take a tablespoon of salt and eat it! I exaggerate a bit but it is still very salty. I won’t share a recipe with you as I guess Mare’s milk is not something you can easily get, instead come to Kyrgyzstan and try it here. Kurut goes great with beer, though some people might only like it after a lot of beer.

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