One of the best memories we have about Kazakhstan is its food. Yes, we are big eaters by nature. I remember a family reunion on my side as a child. We had just finished a large buffet breakfast, and someone innocently asked, well, what do you think we should do for lunch? As my Uncle Charles eloquently put it: “We Boltons are eaters. It’s what we do. We eat.”
Add to the fact that yours truly is a wannabe Iron Chef, and you can see why I was so interested in learning all about Kazakh cooking. To be honest with you, Kazakh cooking borrows heavily from Russian cooking, with the exception that there is definitely some Asian influence as well. You will also see Uzbek influence.
So, whether or not you are an ace in the kitchen, everyone has to at least give Kazakh cooking a shot. And hey, if you are still waiting for your adoption, and finding things to kill the time, this will be perfect for you. In fact, I can also highly recommend sampling some Russian vodka (“voh-tka”) or Kazakh beer as you give these recipes a try. If you fail at the recipes…well, you probably won’t care!
Let me first share a good general site for researching Kazakh recipes, the Kazakh Adoptive Families Cooking Page. This page will link you to actual recipes, as well as some pages explaining the history of Kazakh cooking.
The big staples in Kazakh cooking are pasta or flour based pastry, potatoes, and meat. Ok, and horse meat. Yes, that’s right, horse meat is a delicacy in Kazakhstan. Here is the link for delicacies of horse flesh. Have at it.
My favorite dishes by far are Shashlik (a sort of BBQ), and fried fritters of many sorts, meat-filled, potato and herb filled, and even fruit filled. But what is amazing is that Kazakh people are generally very thin. Their serving sizes are miniscule compared to the U.S.
Finally, a lesson on Kazakh cooking wouldn’t be complete without mention of Manty, which are quite similar to ravioli. This site has a great Manty recipe as well as several fritter recipes. Here is the Manty recipe for you, enjoy!
Manty (Uzbek Lamb Dumplings)
To serve 6
1 1/2 pounds of lean lamb, finely ground (or ground beef)
1 1/2 cups of finely chopped onions
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons of butter
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of finely cut fresh dill leaves or fresh mint
1/4 cup of unflavored yogurt
For the filling, mix the ground lamb, chopped onions, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a deep well in the center and pour in the water. Mix vigorously until smooth, then gather the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a rectangle about 1/16 inch thick. With a 4 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut out 18 to 20 circles of dough and spoon about 5 teaspoons of filling in the center of each. Top each circle with 1 teaspoon or butter and draw up the sides of the circles so that they meet in the middle, enclosing the filling. Dip your fingers in water, pinch the top closed and twist it to form a small pouch.
Steam the manty in the following fashion: Pour enough water into a large kettle to come about 1 inch up the side. Bring to a boil over moderate heat and set a colander into the kettle. Place the manty in the colander, cover the kettle securely and lower the heat. Steam for 15 minutes, then transfer the manty to individual bowls or to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the dill or mint and serve with yogurt, either as an accompaniment to the soup of alone as a light luncheon dish.