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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

International Foods from my holiday travels

I have been away from the farm for a few weeks visiting my sister in Kyrgystan. I also spent a few days in Istanbul on the way home. Since I don't have photos or anything to report from the farm I thought I would share some of the food I enjoyed while away.

Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgystan. It is a relatively new Country and City and quite a melting pot. The Kyrgyz people are a mix of ethnic Russian, Mongoloid and Turkic Peoples. Their culture has been nomadic until pretty recent history. It was quite cold while I was there. During the summer they have a wide variety of local produce but in the winter they seem to subsist mostly on meat, bread and storage crops. Of course they do import produce from places like Iran in the winter but like here it suffers from the miles that it travels.

Here are some highlights from Kyrgystan... (*I am a vegetarian so I am posting photos of meat dishes that Lane or others we were with tried)

Cafe Faiza 

Lapioshka (bread) and Tea

Katie took us to this restaurant which serves traditional Kyrgyz and Central Asian food. 
Check this restaurant out on Trip Advisor here.

Beef Stroganoff 

Blini (like crepes) with Honey

They serve honey and local jams with a lot of meals.

Carrot Salad- pretty common and tasty
Manti- often stuffed with mutton

This is Kyrgytan's Dumpling. Most countries have some version of a dumpling. There was an interesting Splendid Table episode about this phenomenon featuring Andrea Nguyen and her book Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More. Her dumpling dough recipe can be found here.

Cafe Yusa
Turkish Food restaurant in Bishkek. This was a preview of the delicious salads we would find in Turkey. 

Beet Salad, Red and Golden Beets, Chickpeas, Potatoes, Carrots, Cabbage?
with a tangy marinade

Yogurt Soup with Dill

Sweet Pumpkin- must have been roasted and soaked in
some kind of syrup. This was a favorite. 


This is a Georgian restaurant in Bishkek. It was so good we went twice. In general the food was very cheap in Kyrgystan but not so for the wine. Still, our bottle of Georgian wine was dry and red and well worth the price. This place is also on Trip Advisor.

Georgian Wine

Khachapuri- Pastry with Beans on the left, cheese on the right

Lentil Soup- popular all over central Asia and Turkey.
Each one was a bit different. I ordered this a lot.

Maybe my favorite find was the Walnut Paste that the Georgians use a lot with vegetables. It is nutty and creamy and a perfect complement to everything I had it with. Does anyone know of a good recipe for this?
Green Beans barely cooked with Walnut Paste and Pomegranate Seeds

Eggplant and Peppers rolled with Walnut Paste.

Shashlik- Georgian Shish Kabob, Beef and Pork here I think


This was a really fancy Kyrgyz restaurant. I wish I had taken more pictures. The point of going here was so that Lane could sample Horse meet. Now, before you judge, remember how arbitrary it is that we can eat a cow (sacred in some cultures) and a pig (incredibly intelligent with strong family structures) and chicken (make great pets) but not Horse. Central Asia is descendent from nomads. They have relied on Horses for their way of life for ages. They used them for transportation, war, milk, and even food. While I could never eat a horse personally I can not stand in judgement of anyone who does. I dare say this horse was probably happier and healthier in his life than 99.9% of American meat across the board.

Baked potato with garlic

Kyrgyz trying to make Fried Chicken, Katie said it
was pretty good.
And.... Horse Steak

Speaking of Horse...
We also saw this taxidermied horse at Ala Archa National Park.... strange.

And Lane purchased this local staple of fermented mare's milk called Kumis. We read one description by a westerner who said it was like throwing up in someone else's vomit and then drinking it. I did try a sip and found that to be pretty accurate. Lane was more generous and said it tasted like a REALLY strong liquid cheese. He had several gulps before he gave up.

Meat Pockets cooked in a Lapioshka Oven

This method of baking bread was pretty neat. In this case they are baking dough pockets filled with meat, probably mutton. They also bake those discs of bread in these. It's like a cauldron and they stick the dough to the sides where it cooks. 

Bishkek Hot Chocolate- Thick, rich, creamy, amazing

Cheesecake? That's the closest they could translate.
It was kinda like a cheesecake, but cakier. Really delicious.
That's sour cream, they put in on everything.


Assorted salad plate featuring Beets, Zucchini, Chickpeas, Grape Leaves,
Mushroom, Couscous and Eggplant in yogurt sauce. Pomegranate Juice.

Turkey is a lot more mild weather-wise. If the temps go above 90F or below freezing it makes the news. So, they have a longer growing season and even in January fresh produce and salads were easy to find. 


Turkish Coffee, Baklava, some other pastry and Turkish Delight

Turks do coffee differently. They boil the grounds in water and serve it unfiltered. You have to ask for sugar before they prepare it and swirl your cup as you go so as not to end up with sludge at the bottom. It was good but I prefer filtered coffee.

They were really into fresh fruit juices in Istanbul. You would see these displays in markets, store fronts and street carts. I drank a lot of pomegranate juice.

Street Food! Roasted Chestnuts and Sahlep

Another common drink in Istanbul in the winter is Sahlep. It is made from Orchid powder, milk, honey and spices. It is thick, creamy and sweet. You can buy it from any of the half dozen street vendors per block down town. They claim it is medicinal

"The healing power of salep comes from glucomannan, which heals respiratory problems like bronchitis and cough. It empowers the heart and the mind, stops diarrhea and warms up the body. Especially if it’s consumed with ginger and/or cinnamon, its effect is amplified."
It certainly is delicious. 

In addition to the Spice Market, which I neglected to take pictures of, we went to a fish market right on the bank of the Golden Horn. It was all fresh off the boat and practically still swimming.

Another highlight from Turkey is the Apple Tea. They have a tea culture there. Tea is a part of life, inseparable from many activities. If offered in a shop it is impolite to decline but it does mean you're in for the long sales pitch. Still, its worth it. The people are so friendly and hospitable and sitting and having a warm cup of Apple Tea with a carpet salesman named Nuri (goes by Travolta) is one of the greatest memories I brought home from this trip. If you're ever in Istanbul don't miss a trip his shop, Ottomania.

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Kyrgyz and Turkish food. I highly recommend a trip to both of these countries. Go hungry and Eat Well.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh. I think I need to go to Turkey now. Thanks!


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