A giant at the heart of the Central Asia

Introduction - History - Geography - Cities and Oblasts - Culture and Tradition - Food and drinks - Population - What to do/Where to go - Did you know

Food and drinks

Kazaks also love having guests and are generous in their hospitality. There is a saying, "Kazaks' hearts are like the steppes - wide, kind and generous." Regardless of the hour of arrival of the guests, Kazak women will immediately set to work to prepare a "dastarkhan" - a table full of food. If guests arrive and the table remains empty, the host is shamed. At a minimum, each guest must sit down and have tea. Having tea includes bread, fruits & nuts, cookies and sweets.

Kazakh dastarkhan has its own long story, traditions, and specifics inherent to Kazakh nation only. It is known for a particular manner of receiving and serving guests. The part tea is a very important in Kazakh dastarkhan. In fact any Kazakh feast invariably starts with a minutely itemized process of tea drinking. After a host welcomes his guests, invites them to the table. Only girls and young women pour the tea. And they do this wonderfully though it is far from easy. For one should see to it that the guests' drinking bowls be always full, there must be no confusing them, there must be no tea leafs remains on the edge of the bowls. Even if the guest gives to understand that he has already quenched his thirst he must not be left unattended - the hostess must offer him a so-called "sui-ayak" - a tea bowl of honor. Tea is normally accompanied with cream, butter, jam, dried and fresh fruit, nuts, cakes, and other sweet meals. Tea is an introduction, an invitation to a capital meal - a festive feast.

First they serve all sorts of appetizers, mostly meat ones - prepared of horse flesh and mutton. They are quite plentiful and their diversity is just as great. It is all made of smoked, semi-smoked and boiled meat. Flat cakes and such milk tonics as kumys, shubat and katyk are added to the meal. They are followed with vegetable tidbits with invariable flat cakes. Next the guests are treated with a kuyrdak - a hot rich roast meat prepared of mutton by - products mostly of liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and tail's fat. After a small break the guests are treated with all sorts of patties: "samsa"- with meat, "puktermet"- with by- products, "belyashes", "kausyrma" and all...

There are few recipes of Kazakh traditional meals:

a) Besbarmak ("five fingers")

Cover 3-4 kg (6-9lb) of choice fatty meat(mutton, beef and horse) with water and simmer. Make a stuff dough using 250g (9oz) flour, eggs, 1tsp salt and some water. Roll the dough into a circle 1mm thick and cut it into 10-cm squares. Add 5-6 whole peeled potatoes to the meat 20 minutes before it is ready. Remove the cooked meat from the broth and cut it against the grain into small pieces. Remove the potatoes and skim off about 200g (7fl oz) of the broth (including the surface fat) for the sauce. Carefully place the noodles into the broth and boil them. When cooked, place the noodles on the plate, with the meat in the center and the potatoes, cut into pieces, around the edge. Pour over reserved broth, seasoned with black pepper and two or three onions sliced into rings. Serve hot.

b) Kuurdak (offal stew)

Chop beef or lamb heart, kidneys, liver, lungs and meat fillet into 1-cm cubes. Do not mix the different meats together, but place them into separate plates. Chop an onion and 5-6 potatoes into 1-cm cubes. Melt 50-80g (2-3oz) of butter in a large cast-iron pan, add the lungs and fry them for about 5-7 minutes. Then add kidneys, heart and fillet, and after 20 minutes the onion, liver and potatoes. Fry, stirring continuously, until all the pieces are evenly cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Kazakhstan is also a producer of high quality caviar.

Kazakhstan is also a producer of high quality caviar.

c) Baursaki

Knead yeast dough containing 200g flour, 1/8t salt, 1t yeast, and enough water to just hold it together. Allow the dough to rise as bread. To make round baursaki, cut a piece of dough, shapea long sausage of 2-cm diameter. Then cut it into 2-cm pieces and fry in 3cm of oil until they become golden.

d) Kazy

This is a sausage made of fatty horse-meat. Rub a mare's rib with salt, garlic and black pepper. Put cubeb meat into a clean gut and add the rib, tying its end around the rib, smoke and boil for 3 hours. After the Kazy is done, cut slightly the gut, remove rib and slice the meat (or leave in the gut to store until you serve it).

e) Kumys

Kumys is a sour milk beverage made of mare's milk. In new warm mare's milk add about 25% of sour-milk bacillus ferment and milk yeast, stir us continuously with a whisk 20 to 30 mins. Let stand 2-3 hours, then stir again. In a little while, pour the blend in bowl, cover tightly and let stand in a cool place.
Finally there comes the capital treat - besbarmak. First they cover a large round or oval dish with small round flat pieces of boiled paste followed by small bars of boiled horse-meat or mutton, then comes onion cut in rings and scalded with hot broth, all this strewn with a green mixture of fennel, parsley and kinza...

The most honored guest is usually offered a koy-bas (a boiled sheep's head). The guest is to dress it and distribute among the other participants to the dastarkhan. One should mind that each part of the head is attached particular significance and meaning: young men are treated with ears for them to be attentive, girls - with a palate (it is believed that this would make them more diligent). The head having been divided the host proceeds with cutting meat on the main dish and shares it with his guests.

Here too one has to mind certain habits and superstitions. For instance, hipbones and crus are offered to most honored guests while the breastbone goes to the son-in-law or daughter-in-law, vertebra - to married women, pregnant ones first and foremost.

Certain bans are also to be observed. Thus even the most honored guest may not be treated with a "koy-bas" if his father is present at the table.

Children may not be offered brains (they might become weak-willed), just as an elbow bone - to a young girl (she might be "left on the shelf")...

The meat is usually accomplished with flat cakes with onion (ak nan). A rich broth (sorpa) is poured in separate bowls. However in many areas of Kazakhstan besbarmak on the dastarkhan is replaced with "kespe", Kazakh noodle soup: in a drinking bowl or a soup-plate they put warmed up noodles and pour tuzdyk on them, a gravy consisting of meat, black radish, sweet pepper, onions, tomatoes and green kinza.

PreviousRead onNext