Food always played a big role in the lives of human beings. But once you enter Asia, you will understand that here it has quite a special role. For example, in India, you might be asked the question “Did you have breakfast/lunch/dinner?” on the same level as “How are you?”. In other southeastern Asian countries, you might be asked: “What kind of food you have been eaten lately or what kind of food shall we eat?” Smells, textures, spices. It’s all very important.
Meals on the table play quite a crucial role in our region. As we just love to celebrate different events throughout the person’s life, the food is meant to be a lot on the table and very varied. Like my father used to say: “There shouldn’t be an apple to fall on the table”.
Besides, turkic (to be noted “turkic”, not “turkish”) culture is known to be hospitable. “The guest is the king” our ancestors used to say. Whenever newcomer visits the village he/she would be invited to the house to have some food and tea. Also, the guest would be placed in the most respected place of the table (tor). That’s why following this tradition to our days, any guest is most welcomed to the house and hosts in their turn, will bring the best food to the table.
Central Asian variety
Due to the geographical location of the country and historical events, the food of our region brings together two ancient parts of the world. As we live in a multinational country, we would say we have our own varied tasty Kazakhstani cuisine. We eat Kazakh beshbarmak or kuyrdak, Russian vareniki or manty, Ukrainian borsh, Uzbek plov, Korean salad or kimchi, Tatar chak-chak, and many others. The beauty of living in this country: variety and home food culture. Actually, you may find it as a bread, potato, and meat-based culture. And no spices. Maybe a tiny-tiny bit of red chili paper, but very rarely. Generally, we use only salt and pepper.
A variety of bread products just flourishes in our region. Wholewheat, white, traditional homemade products such as baursak(puffed round/square bread pieces boiled in oil), shelpek(round big pieces of bread), tandyrnan, noodles, pastas.
And as for meat, the prerogative to a nomad culture, starting from chicken, mutton, beef, deer to camel and horse. Back in the old days, our ancestors used to travel from one place to another. All this traveling and moving through vast spaces from mountains to flats required a lot of energy and strength, which we needed to have. So that’s why meat is thought to be an important place and ingredient for any meal we consume.
Here’s the main traditional Kazakh dish, we all love and treasure from the old days. It’s called beshbarmak. It literally translates as “five fingers”. It consists of home-made pieces of pasta, boiled potato, boiled onions, and meat. A lot of meat. Any kind of meat. I think I made my point with meat right?! 🙂
Tea is very important as well. Someone told us that being a country with quite a small number of the population we are in the list of the highest consumers of the tea. Can you believe that?! Let’s just give an example, my grandpa can drink like 5-7 cups of tea during dinner. And he has his own cup bigger size than us. Okay, off the topic. 🙂
If we have tea, we should drink it with something. So for that, we have a big variety of sweets, homemade natural and the ones we can find easily and affordably in the local shops and supermarkets. As for homemade ones, we have zhent, chak-chak,cookies, pies, cakes.
Besides beshbarmak, while in Central Asia you should try this:
- Golubtsy (or minced meat filled in green pepper)
Throughout history, food brings people together. No matter where we come from, how was our day and how we feel. It gathers us in one place and time around the table over a meal to share the latest news provokes deep conversations and enjoy this simple pleasure of life.