Monday, April 21, 2008

Kyrgyzstan Meals

Many of the remnants of the nomadic culture persist despite the fact that few Kyrgyz people live in Yurts or are nomadic today. For example in the typical Kyrgyz home you will find little furniture. This harkens back to the days when the family had to be able to move everything in search of better pastures. Today it is still traditional to eat your meals sitting on the ground around a tablecloth "dastarkan" laid on the floor or on a short table.

If you are invited to a Kyrgyz party be prepared to spend several hours, eating, drinking, singing and dancing. As guests enter the party they are seated in a particular place depending on their gender and age. Women are usually seated on the left hand side of the room and men are on the right and the seat that is furthest from the door is given to the guest of highest honor - usually the oldest male.

A typical Kyrgyz party begins with the "dastarkan" full of breads especially "borsok," a type of fry bread that is very central to Kyrgyz culture. Bread is given an almost sacred standing in Kyrgyz culture. Bread is never placed on the ground or thrown away.

Also on the table at the beginning of a Kyrgyz party you will find a number of salads, often that have been canned for the winter. In the summer the table will also include sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Of course no Kyrgyz table would be complete without the tea. If the power is out the Kyrgyz use a samovar to heat water for tea. Tea is served to each guest with the handle-less cup in the right hand while the left hand is bracing the right elbow. This two handed service indicates respect for the guest.

The second course is usually a soup or some type of meat dumplings. During each course the guests will take turns proposing toasts and each toast is accompanied by a shot of vodka or perhaps wine or cognac. Sometimes between courses the guests will sing Kyrgyz folk or pop songs or dance. The singing is usually done with the passing of a cup - the person with the cup leads the party in their favorite song and then passes the cup to another guest to sing.

The final course at important Kyrgyz celebrations is Besh Barmak (five fingers). This course starts with someone (usually a child) coming around with a teapot full of warm water and a basin and he/she goes to each guest in turn for them to wash their hands. Then a large basin full of hot mutton is brought in and with their hands guests begin passing out pieces and cutting up the meat. After a few minutes another basin is brought in, this time full of homemade noodles. The cut meat is then mixed with the noodles to create a type of stew. The guests then eat their fill out of the basin using their hands. At the conclusion of the meal, all the guests hold their hands out in front of them palms up and once everyone is ready together in unison they pass their hands in front of their faces ending with the palms together while everyone says "omeen."

No comments: