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Besh Barmak

“Besh” = five

“Barmak” = finger

The national dish of Kyrgyzstan is traditionally eaten without utensils, hence the name: besh barmak.  

Very little is required to make this dish, though a true platter of besh barmak represents at least 4 or 5 hours of hands on work.  First of all, the meat is placed in a large pot with quite a lot of salt and kept covered with water as it maintains a rolling boil for 1.5 to 2 hours.

As the meat boils, the noodles are prepared.  Flour + salt + water + a little yeast; then five strong fingers dig in to mix and knead the dough.  After the dough rests, it is kneaded down, rests, kneaded, and divided into small mounds for the rolling process.

Rolling pins do not suffice for besh barmak noodles.  Wooden dowels a meter long are wielded deftly by able hands, which stretch the mounds of dough into enormous circles.  Eventually, when the dough is stretched to a 1 mm thickness and reaches beyond the edges of dowel, it is spiraled around the rolling pin, sliced off, and cut into even squares.  When all of these squares are prepared, the meat is taken out of the boiling water, the pasta squares dropped in, and the table is set. 

The meat comes out first.  Big chunks served on casual platters with accompanying knives.  Shortly after this the noodles appear: hot, oily, and slippery.
Some sampling of the meat and pasta might occur at this point, but then everyone surrounds the table, knives in hand, to help cut the meat and noodles into small, small pieces.  These little pieces are mixed together in order to create the final masterpiece:

Besh Barmak!

image of open hand showing five fingers

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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