mobile logo

W.O.W. | Kant

“Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”

-Immanuel Kant

To much of the world, “kant” evokes images of an 18th century Prussian philosopher, but in Kyrgyzstan the word is much more common, although less quotable.  In Kyrgyz, “kant” means sugar.  Just outside of Bishkek, a small town was built in the 1930’s around the implementation of a sugar plant.  All across the country, in the fall, farmers begin harvesting their sugar beets and sending them by the truckload to this small town.  If you manage to time it right, you could be stuck in a traffic line that crawls along for kilometers, as passenger cars move in a single file past the line up of these trucks, waiting their turn for delivery to the plant.  Fallen sugar beets, enormous and white, line the highway like a Hansel and Gretel story, leading the way to Kant.

Whether in cube or granulated form, EVERY good Kyrgyz table will have white sugar on it, often in several forms.  Next to bread, sugar is an essential staple to Kyrgyz culture, hospitality, and dining.  This comes from several reasons:  first of all, sugar is cheap and delicious, and therefore an easy thing to have at the ready for guests.  Secondly, it is a lovely partner to another foundational Kyrgyz dining component: tea.

In addition to the standard white sugar, there is often a dish of homemade jam, also used as a sweetener for tea.  Strawberry, apricot, raspberry, and current are usual flavors, but some women will get creative, mixing strawberry with rhubarb or creating an orange marmalade.

Another sweetener that is usually reserved for more special occasions is honey.  The white mountain honey that is unique to this region is specifically loved, but with bee keepers all over the country, honey of many hues and flavors is abundant.

The last sugar option enticingly present on most tables comes in the form of candy.  Brightly wrapped chocolates, toffees, fruit jellies, and the occasional marzipan are gently nudged toward any guest.  Mysteriously, it seems that the dish filled with the candies is never touched, yet somehow it frequently needs to be refilled…

Alongside bread and tea, sugar is one of the most important aspects of good hospitality in Kyrgyzstan.  It comes in many forms and is always seen as a sweet gesture of well-meaning between hosts and guests.  Now that the theory of “kant” in Kyrgyz culture is somewhat explained, it’s time to come and experience this theory for yourself!

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

More articles


The Toi Table

The Entry Point to Kyrgyz Cuisine

read more

Besh Barmak

The national dish of Kyrgyzstan traces its history to the cuisine of nomads, who knew how to create a delicious meal with what they had.

read more

W.O.W. | Kant

The sweet spot in our "Week of White" series.

read more

Chai Ich | Drink Tea

"Tea … is a religion of the art of life." -Kakuzo Okakura

read more

Bizarre Bazaars | Shopping in Kyrgyzstan

Going to the store and shopping are no longer the same thing. The bazaar is an experience for every sense, including the sense of connection.

read more

Lepyoshka | The Pretty Round Bread

A bread of many names, these beautiful yeast-loaves are heavenly when freshly pulled from the oven.

read more

How to Be Vegetarian in Kyrgyzstan

In meat-centered cultures, choosing to NOT eat meat can be daunting. Though a Central Asian stronghold, Kyrgyzstan is proving to be one of the easier places to travel as a vegetarian.

read more

Sign Up for our Newsletters

Be the first to know when we have a special offer on our tour packages
Sign Up