Every country is synonymous with a word. For instance, we can tie the word pasta with Italy, desert with Jordan and elephants with Sri Lanka. Of course, the list goes on!
So where does that leave the country of Kyrgyzstan synonymous?
Its naturescape is undeniably some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and is known for having over 2,000 lakes, many of which were caused by melted glaciers. However, with its semi-nomadic living and cultural traditions, which remain still intact today, we can also tie its comfort food as part of its gastronomic adventure. So here is our list of food in Kyrgyzstan, a list of the best Kyrgyz cuisine.
Kyrgyz food takes on various cultural palates, from its neighboring countries and with its influences from China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This means that whenever trying a dish in Kyrgyzstan, you can be sure to find a lot of intersections of Central Asian cuisine.
However, we have to preface that if you’re visiting Kyrgyzstan, then you should definitely be aware that this is not the land for vegetarians or vegans. Due to the climate of the land and the resources available. Many Kyrgyz people still live semi-nomadic lives and due to this, many opt for homestead living and pasture farming.
1. Five Fingers (Beshbarmak) – National food of Kyrgyzstan
Why five fingers? Well, it’s simple, you see because the Kyrgyz believe that you should only eat this dish by hand. The dish itself is a mix of meat (sometimes mutton or beef), and noodles, soaked in an onion broth. Also, with this dish, sharing is caring, because it is normally served on a platter that is enough for at least two people, maybe three, depending on your hunger levels!
We are positive that almost every country in the world has some sort of variation of a dumpling dish and the origin or reason behind that is almost an uncanny coincidence or a simple logical explanation that because dumplings are made with dough and stuffed with local ingredients, it could be said that since the dough is accessible to make and easy to find the resources for, almost every country inhabits a dumpling like a dish.
Kyrgyz cuisine is not shy of this tradition either. Manti is a dish that gets stuffed and steamed with meat, spices and vegetables. Sometimes, depending on the season, you may even find that it is stuffed with pumpkin or squash. This is also considered an Uyghur recipe, so you are sure to find it in Karako, especially if you’re visiting the Dungan Mosque and having a traditional meal there afterward.
It is safe to say that wherever you visit Kyrgyzstan, you’re sure to find comfort food along the way. Since most people still inhabit a semi-nomadic lifestyle, the cuisine is in line with the climate and the environment. For instance, Laghman is one of those dishes that you can’t miss. The noodles are fried and then a base is added with different vegetables, spices and meat. If you visit different parts of the country, you might see that different ethnic groups do them differently. This dish is typically served at Kyrgyzstan restaurants.
4. Ashlan-Fu – A food in Kyrgyzstan to not miss!
This would be the unofficial mascot of Karokal, Ashlan-Fu. Not only fun to pronounce, but even better to eat. It is a Dungan soup that is cold and spicy, which is a great mix of different tastes, including some vinegar that gives it a kick. If you are sure to take a Dungan cultural tour, then you will probably try Ashlan-Fu along the way!
We can’t leave our list without talking about some of the pastries available in Kyrgyzstan. While this wouldn’t really be considered a meal, Samsa could be synonymous with samosas and are made like triangles or half-moon shapes and stuffed with different fillings. Since the Kyrgyz typically put meat in their dishes, this one is also stuffed with onions and lamb meat, while sometimes, there are variations with potatoes and other vegetables. This is one of those Kyrgyz recipes that you need to try!
Borsok is the traditional bread of Kyrgyzstan and they simply look like little pillows, little heavenly fried pillows. These fried dough bread bites are normally served without any toppings and then served on the side with different types of jams or honey or butter or if you are lucky enough, try it with their local version of cream cheese. Kyrgyz cuisine just got sweeter!
Kyrgyz soup for the soul. Similar to the western versions of chicken soup, broth, veggies, and fresh herbs, it is the best time to get this soup after a day of hitting the slopes in some Kyrgyzstan winter or even when the temperatures drop!
Have you ever seen something so pretty you can’t eat it? That is how Oromo looks! This dish looks like a flower and is wrapped with handmade dough and then filled with cabbage and carrots, for those who are vegetarian friendly and then meat for those who like…well meat. This handmade dish does take quite a bit of time to make, so don’t be surprised if you need to order in advance.
Central Asian culture’s cuisine revolves a lot around meat, dairy and carbs. So kymyz is just one of those things you need to try. It is fermented mare milk and it is known amongst the Kyrgyz people to have many healing properties.
Lastly, plov o plov as we cannot forget to mention you! It is a rice dish that can also be found in many neighboring countries, similar to polo or polo and is cooked with white rice, veggies, spices and then, of course, topped with meat and onions.
Food in Kyrgyzstan plays a big pillar in the community behind food and the ancient traditions that follow it. When visiting Kyrgyzstan and being mesmerized by the food, don’t forget to indulge in a carb or two, especially when trying out our list of the best Kyrgyz food!