Central Asia is a rather unknown region of Asia that is surrounded by Russia, China, Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea. It comprises of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. There is a heavy Russian, Chinese and Persian influence and that is visible in its cuisine as well.

Central Asian Cuisine Facts & History

 

• The cuisine found in Kazakhstan is influenced by the nomadic way of life. A lot of Russian influence can be seen here. It contains a lot of meat like that of goat and horse. Most of the dairy is also fermented for preservation.
• Nomads live off the land and therefore, the cuisine contains a lot of root vegetables, milk and milk products from livestock and food that can grow in dry areas like potatoes, onions, and carrots.
• Kyrgyzstan fell on the popular trade route called the Silk route and the food from the region has visible influences from Russia, China and Uzbekistan.
• Due to its geographical position, Tajikistan’s food is majorly influenced by Chinese and Afghani culture.
• Turkmenistan showcases a large influence of the Persian culture.
• The most well-known dishes of the Central Asian region come from Uzbekistan. The country has a major Jewish population and the dishes found here carry a lot of Jewish flavor in them too.
• Wheat is a staple and can be found in different kinds of breads that are consumed in the region.

Central Asian Cuisine Menu

Breakfast

Somsa
Cooked inside a clay oven, somsa is essentially stuffed dough with a filling of meat or veggies. Variants of this dish are eaten all across Central Asia.

Oromo
A Krygyzstani delicacy, this one has dough filled with cabbage, onions and finely chopped meat.

Katlama
A flaky and flavorful flatbread that is usually eaten with tea.

Khanum
An Uzbek favorite, this is also known as Lazy Mantas. These are very similar to pies and are usually filled with meats, pumpkin or herbs.

Quinces
Stuffed quinces can be easily found in Uzbekistan. They are baked in an oven and have chicken with melon and potatoes.

Sausage & Bread
Sausages especially that made from horsemeat and goat are a big thing in the Central Asian cuisine. Sliced sausage on one of the many breads in the region can be found as a breakfast item easily.

Gardob
This is a porridge that is made from wheat flour, oil, milk and water.

Fresh Fruit
Dried and fresh fruit are both big in Central Asia. While fruit may not be a complete breakfast unto itself, it is used as an accompliment.

Lunch

Plov/ Paloo
This one dish is a Central Asian staple. Made from spiced rice mixed with vegetables and meat, you can find different versions of it across the region.

Beshbarmak
Made from mutton, this is a dish that is extremely popular in Kazakhstan. It is served with pieces of boiled dough that have been cooked in the meat and onion broth. It was traditionally made with horse meat, but now lamb and beed are also used.

Laghman
This is a dish from Krygyzstan and has its roots in China. It is bowl of noodles, topped with a soup of meats and vegetables. The East Asian influence in its flavors in undeniable.

Shashlik
Heavily consumed in Turkmenistan, it is spiced mutton skewered and slow roasted on hot coals.

Shorba
Another Central Asian delight, this one contains boiled mutton on the bone, along with veggies like turnips, carrots and potatoes for flavor.

Borscht
This is the Russian influence coming through in the Kazakh food. Borscht is purple in color and is made from beetroots, beef stock, onion, potatoes, and carrots.

Ashlan-fu
A Krygyz-dish, this one contains cold noodles with peppers and vinegar. Egg is also added sometimes to the dish.

Ganfan
It takes inspiration from the Chinese cuisine with rice served in a spiced broth of vegetables and meat. This can be found in a Krygyzstani household.

Gandush kuga
This is a rare vegetarian option that you can find in Tajikistan, and is made from beans.

Gulchitai
Another horsemeat dish from Krygyzstan that has shaved meat to be eaten with nan.

Bread/Nan
Found all over Central Asia, Nan is a dense and thick form of bread. It is generally eaten during meals with other dishes.

Yakhni
This Uzbekistani dish is usually made from two kinds of meat and is garnished with vegetable to go along with it.

Snacks

Manti
Served all across Central Asia, these are essentially dumplings that are filled with the meat of choice.

Pelmeni
Ground meat is filled in pasta and served with sour cream and is famous in many parts of Central Asia.

Hunon
This is an Uzbek dish that contains meat, onion, potato and carrots stuffed in dough that is folded like a roulette. It is eaten with thick yogurt.

Chochvara
A Krygyzstani delicacy is prepared exactly like Pelmeni, but is fried and served with a flavored tomato broth.

Zhuta
This Kazakhistani dish is similar to Hunon with the stuffing containing pumpkin and carrots

Qurut
These are balls of yougurt that have been preserved. These are tangy to taste and used like cheese

Qurutob
The salty and tart Qurut is mixed with water and drizzled over flaky bread. It is then topped with fried onions and other fried vegetables. It is eaten like a pizza.

Nahud sambusa
Found in Tajikistan, this is fried dough filled with spiced chick pea mix.

Dinner

Lunch and dinner menus do not differ much

Desserts

Bekmes
This is concentrated fruit syrup with no added sugar. Very tasty, this one is served in Turkmenistan.

Halwa
This is found in all Central Asian countries and is made from oil, flour and lots of nuts and dried fruits

Baklava
Another Central Asian dessert that is popular all over and contains flaky dough with a nut or dried fruit filled that is then doused in sugar syrup.

Drinks

Chal
This is camel’s milk which is tangy and fizzy, but appetizing and is a favorite in Turkmenistan

Kymys
A Krygyzstani beverage that is hugely popular and is made from mare’s milk that has been fermented

Tea
No matter which part of Central Asia you go to, you are going to find tea. It can be black tea, green tea, tea with sour cream, cardamom and fennel, or any other regional ingredients.

Kefir
Again a Turkmenistani beverage that is made from thick yogurt that is prepared by mixing kefir grains with the milk of cow, sheep, or goat. It is then fermented for 24 hours before serving.

Shubat
This can be best described as a milk tonic and is commonly found in the Kazakh cuisine

Linebrew
A cheap and rather tasty beer brewed in Kazakhstan

Holiday Menus

Sumalak
This is an absolutely important part of Navroz celebrations in Central Asia. The sprouting wheat grains are pressed. The extract is then mixed with oil and flour to make this delicacy.

Plov
A Central Asian favorite, this dish is part of any celebration in the region.

Yak meat
This is usually consumed in Tajikistan and is made during special occasions.

Beshbarmak
This is eaten in Kazakhstan during any celebration

Most Popular Dishes

• Plov
• Beshbarmak
• Shorpa
• Sausages
• Somsas
• Nan

Most Used Ingredients

• Mutton
• Beef
• Cheeses
• Tomatoes
• Carrots
• Potatoes
• Tea
• Melons

Traveling Foodie – What to eat when you travel to Central Asia

When you visit Asia, get ready to eat a lot of meats. Cured meats and cheeses will be abundant. You cannot miss on the horsemeat dishes and somsas that can be found in the restaurants. Also, do try Yak meat and the bizarre milks available in the region. Central Asia is a culinary adventure, so dive in with an open mind.

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Are you from Central Asia? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Central Asianethnic food.

Author Name: Abdal Faiziyev