The Food of the ‘Stans

My other article today was about the countries of Central Asia known as the ‘Stans; among the many interesting things I found were a diverse assortment of culinary delights, some specific to the various countries, and some stretching across the region.


These are some of the interesting items I found:


Shivit Oshi

This local pasta originates in the Uzbek city of Khiva, The dough for these vibrant green noodles is dyed using dill; the cooked noodles are commonly served with beef stew, with tangy yogurt on the side.



This smoked horse meat sausage was once only accessible to wealthy Kazakhs; now, it appears at many Kazakh feasts. Made of a combination of rib meat and fat, it is usually served in slices; its taste is reminiscent of a dry, buttery pot roast. Shuzhuk is often served with particular pride.



Qarta at the center surrounded by other sliced meats, including horse fat sausage and boiled cow tongue.

This is another Kazakh horse offering; oftentimes, the market butchers preparing it will be female. Qarta is made of a particular section of the horse intestine and is prepared by cleaning said intestine and turning it inside-out so that the soft fat is inside, then tying the ends. The intestine is then either smoked or salted before being boiled in water and simmered in broth. The finished product is served chopped into thin rings.



A pile of crispy borsok.

This Kyrgyz fried bread is prepared for many occasions, both celebratory and devotional; along with events like weddings, it is used in honoring ancestors and performing funeral rites. It is usually made of ingredients like flour, water, salt, butter, sugar, yeast, and oil; it is prepared by rolling the dough into little balls and frying them in a special pan. The result is little golden bread nuggets.



Fermented horse milk is called airag in Mongolia.

For thousands of years, this fermented mare’s milk was enjoyed on the Central Asian steppes; today, it is mostly prepared commercially. The traditional nomad way of preparing it was to churn milk in vats until the milk acidified at the yeasts made it alcoholic; it was often then kept agitated by striking the leather sacks in which it was carried.



Sumalak, also known as samanu, is one of the seven traditional dishes of Nowruz.

This dish is often prepared for the Nowruz festival, AKA Persian New Year. Since the preparation of this sweet-tasting wheat pudding takes several hours, it becomes a community affair; it is a symbol of community and good luck, involving singing, dancing, laughing, and storytelling. The finished product is served warm, often with fresh bread and a pot of tea.



These small, pocket-sized dairy snacks have fuelled Central Asian nomads for centuries; they are just one of many fermented dairy products developed by such nomads. The process of making kurt is simple: soured milk is taken and strained into soft curds, which are then shaped and left in the sun to harden. In addition to snacks, kurt can also be used for things like being crumbled into soups, stews, and salads.

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