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Five Foods to Try in Kyrgyzstan

We’ve already talked about besh barmak, the Kyrgyz national dish, but there are plenty of other delicious foods to test out when taking a journey through Kyrygzstan.  

#1: Kurut

This is the traditional Central Asian snack.  Kurut is hard describe, and much better to experience.  In essence, it is a ball of dried cheese that is eaten in nibbles, rather than one bite.  It has a strong salty cheese flavor, slightly smoky.  Some have a bit of wheat mixed in, and everyone has their own recipe for making them.  Often an acquired taste for foreign tongues, they are worth sampling at least once.

#2: Mantu

Nearly every nation of Asia has its version of the dumpling.  Kyrgyzstan in fact has multiple forms, but mantu is the staple.  The usually come with a mix of onions and meat inside, but sometimes they can be found with only spring onions or with potatoes.  In the fall and winter it is possible to find them with pumpkin! Learning to form the dumplings with deftness is a right of passage into Kyrgyz culture.  

#3: Laghman

Thick, satisfying noodles are doused in a well-seasoned stew, packed with bell peppers, onions, and slivers of meat.  There are different variations depending on which region of Central Asia the recipe heralds, but restaurants will often offer several types.  Some are have more broth and others are drier, but all are quite delicious.

Plate of noodles with vegetable and meat stew poured over them

#4: Plov

This is the Kyrgyz rice dish.  Usually reserved for celebrations or events that involve feeding a large number of people, plov is simple and satisfying.  White rice is cooked with small spears of carrots, plenty of oil, and some salt.  Small pieces of lightly fried meat are mixed in before serving, adding to the savory flavor.  This dish is often cooked during camping trips and picnics in huge bowls over an open fire, where the hints of crispiness on the rice and meat are all the more satisfying.  

a young man and kyrgyz woman stir a large pot of rice over a campfire

#5: Samsa

If kurut is not your kind of snack, then samsa is your next go-to.  Look for the neighborhood ovens that produce larger, flakier, and cheaper versions of this baked treat.  The inside contains meat and onions, chicken, or sometimes potatoes or pumpkin.  A few places make an exceptionally fine cheese and chicken samsa, but you’ll need local intel in order to find them!

two young women hold baked goods and smile at the camera

by Ruby Mitchell, Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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