People often think I’m joking when I say that I love the food in Kyrgyzstan.
Compared to other Asian countries, I find it an absolute joy to not be confronted with dish after dish of seafood, most likely due to the landlocked nature of the country and poor transportation network.
Instead, the traditional cuisine bases itself on meat, rice or bread goods, and milk products.
Sure, the more traditional style of cuisine has that meat as either mutton or horse, but today in the big city of Bishkek, you can find most meals using beef for extra tasty goodness.
Actually, the food of Kyrgyzstan has been influenced by many countries and cultures, bringing Russian, Turkish, Asian, Georgian and Central Asian food to the table.
Going to Kyrgyzstan? Book your hostels here?
On a more traditional level, here are a few of the food delights of Kyrgyzstan.
Perhaps you would recognize this food better if it were called “plov”?
Paloo is a rice-based dish with bits of fried meat, carrots, garlic and onion that is then sprinkled with herbs or hot chili peppers.
Being a carb-lover, a rice dish that also covers my meat and vegetable group at the same time is a winner.
Or, you may sometimes find this as a vegetarian option with dried fruits mixed throughout.
There is no Kyrgyz dish I get more excited about than laghman. Laghman hails from the Dungan people whose roots lie in Western China.
The handmade noodles used in laghman actually remind me of my favorite Chinese restaurant here in Sydney, Australia, but the broth that is added to these noodles are what sets it apart.
Forget the soy sauce coated noodles in your favorite Chinese dishes. Instead, laghman is topped with a spicey, salty soup that contains meat, peppers, onions, carrots and herbs.
The sometimes difficult to eat thick noodles have a tendency to splash soup around, so be careful when eating laghman and wearing a white shirt.
Manty are dumplings, usually smaller than the size of your palm, filled with a mixture of meat (usually lamb), onions, potato and fat (because everything is better with fat, right?).
These dumplings are served usually with some vinegar or some ketchup, but I also enjoy them with sour cream.
Be careful with biting in for the first time! The fat and juice on the inside can be piping hot and squirt out everywhere.
Shashlik acts as a temptress for many food vendors. Workers will grill these skewers of meat over the coals of barbecues on the street corners, letting the smell waft through the air to lure in passersby.
Traditionally, shashlik is a skewer of mutton with a high fat ratio, but I find that getting skewers of chicken or beef is quite easy at many restaurants in larger cities.
Shashlik meat is generally served with sliced onion, and cucumber slices are also a popular accompaniment.
Beshbarmak may or may not be considered a food delight. For me, personally, I am not a fan, but you might love it if you love meat.
The main premise of beshbarmak consists of horse or sheep meat that has been boiled in its own broth and fat. This broth is then served over noodles and eaten with the hands.
Beshbarmak would not be considered especially flavorful in a spice sense, but it is a very traditional dish that is usually eaten at special occasions like births or deaths. It is also a custom to place a boiled sheep head in front of the guest of honor.
Like I said before, this may or may not be considered a food delight.