2018 Tian Shan
August-September 2018 travel to Kazakhstan reviewed in 2021
Commentary from 2021
This post from 24.08.2018 treats about food as I tried it back then in the country. I found it hard to find genuine Kazakh food anywhere in Astana or Almaty, instead finding lots of fast food chains where a lot of people queued up for hamburgers. I was told the issue is that most Kazakhs don’t eat out – I would need to come to some home, but as I was travelling alone, that was not an option. Eventually, I had the opportunity to try some local food too, ranging from served at cheap canteens to eyewatering expensive mountain hotel restaurant.
The food in Kazakhstan revolves around meat, and while you will find no pork here (Kazakhstan is a Muslim country), it involves horsemeat. An interesting fact for me for two reasons. First, if you order something, you will get meat and be asked if you want some bread and garnir to this. Garnir refers to things like potatoes, rice and other things that in my culture usually comes as standard, not as something paid extra – difference number one. Second, in my country pork is fine, but eating horsemeat is culturally pretty much forbidden, whereas in Kazakhstan this naturally is the other way around. I tried horsemeat. In my personal view, it’s better than pork, but worse than chicken, turkey or beef. The sugary lemonades were great though. Cool! Finding exotic stuff is why people travel for fun, after all.
Original blog post links:
Original post from 24.08.2018 is copied below.
I don’t have enough experience with that yet, but after 4 days in Kazakhstan (+1 spent in the train), I can already say a bit. The reason I can’t tell much about Kazakh food after 4 days in Kazakhstan is that that can’t find Kazakh food anywhere. In Astana – failed completely, in Almaty – didn’t find any so far. I found Turkish, Italian, Uzbek, various European styles, American, Thai, but not Kazakh.
First of all, like everywhere in the world, expensive doesn’t mean good, and cheap doesn’t mean bad.
This soup cost me 590 KZT – that’s 1.48 euro or 6.37 PLN (Polish złoty, currency in my country). Now I can get a soup in my country for 4.50 PLN, but that soup will be very low quality. While that on the picture was the best chicken soup I had in years!
I met with a friend from Almaty, and we ordered a few dishes so I can try them out. Started with lemonade – one is pear, the other one is made from some plant I can’t remember, something exotic – colour of a dishwasher soap, and according to her, it tasted just as badly. I loved both. Perhaps my taste is poor.
Now the real thing and what I found weird about Kazakh culture. These guys rely on meat and meat alone. So if you order some meals, you’ll get, well, that. Nothing like home, where you get a portion of meat, some vegetable basis (usually potatoes) and salad. Here you need to order them separately.
But, much like Russians or the Spanish, they eat bread to lunch! Me refusing bread to lunch raises brows. I’ve been 2 times to Russia, 7 times to Ukraine, 1 time to Spain and 1 time to Georgia, so I know that habit, but I’m still not used to that.
I also ordered a “European salad”, and this I liked the most, to be honest. As much as “European salad” sounds abstract (do they know how many cultures are there in Europe…?), this was very, very close to home! Mushrooms, leeks, eggs in a mayonnaise-based salad. So, points for the place, they nailed that one just right.
Final things: this looks like a pancake, but it’s not. It’s a good piece of dough with cheese, it’s tasty. Can anyone tell me what can that be? It was said to be Caucasian cuisine with a name “khinkal”, but I’ve been to George and khinkali is something dramatically different (little twisted dumplings with broth and meat inside that are impossible to eat without embarrassing yourself, I loved those).
Further away is the melon and watermelon. Weird thing is, that in Russian a melon is “dynia”. Same word in Polish means a pumpkin. Two related languages, same word, but different meaning behind it. What do you know!