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Food in Kyrgyzstan: 5 Delightful Dishes

Ganfan is a common food in Kyrgyzstan

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 not to 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.

The food of Kyrgyzstan has been influenced by many countries and cultures, bringing Russian, Turkish, Asian, Georgian, and Central Asian food to the table.

On a more traditional level, here are a few of the food delights of Kyrgyzstan.

Carrot salad and paloo on the right
Carrot salad and paloo on the right

1. Paloo

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 sprinkled with herbs or hot chili peppers.

Being a carb-lover, a rice dish that also covers my meat and vegetable group simultaneously is a winner.

Or, you may sometimes find this as a vegetarian option with dried fruits mixed throughout.

Kyrgyz laghman
Kyrgyz laghman

2. Laghman

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 remind me of my favorite Chinese restaurant here in Sydney, Australia, but the broth added to these noodles sets it apart.

Forget the soy sauce-coated noodles in your favorite Chinese dishes. Instead, laghman is topped with a spicy, salty soup that contains meat, peppers, onions, carrots, and herbs.

The sometimes challenging to eat thick noodles tend to splash soup around, so be careful when eating laghman and wearing a white shirt.

Related: What to Expect When Backpacking Kyrgyzstan

Manty (photo by garysoup)
Manty (photo by garysoup)

3. Manty

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 usually served with vinegar or 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 is being grilled. (photo: upyernoz)
Shashlik is being grilled. (photo: upyernoz)

4. Shashlik

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. Still, I find that getting skewers of chicken or beef is relatively easy at many restaurants in larger cities.

Shashlik meat is generally served with sliced onion, and cucumber slices are also a popular accompaniment.

Related: Horse Trekking to Song Kol Lake

Beshbarmak (photo: upyernoz)
Beshbarmak (photo: upyernoz)

5. Beshbarmak

Beshbarmak may or may not be considered a food delight. I am not a fan, but you might love it if you love meat.

The central 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 traditional dish usually eaten on 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.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

james kane

Friday 23rd of January 2015

this food looks disgusting


Tuesday 18th of November 2014

The last one, its not our traditional Beshbarmak. Because beshbarmak is not like it. And more delicious food!

nur kg

Wednesday 15th of January 2014

ooofff çok özledim bizim Kyrgyz yemeklerini:(((

Julie Larsen

Friday 15th of November 2013

When I was in college, I spent a summer in Kyrgyzstan. In addition to the beautiful scenery, fantastic hikes, and wonderful people, I loved the food. So, so good! This page is a trip down memory lane. Thanks! Though, I would have also added the yummy round flat bread that I got at the market almost every day. Of course, I can't remember what it was called now. That was almost 15 years ago. But it was sure good!


Tuesday 27th of November 2012

I love your posts! They are always so positive. When I read other blogs about Kyrgyzstan, people always make it seem like they hate it and it hurts because I was born there and look forward to summer so I can visit my grandparents there. But are awesome! And LAGMAN is my favorite (:

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