Horsemeat and Vinegar

by Joshua Foust on 4/13/2011 · 4 comments

I had the pleasure of taking a break from the endless war analysis to write about the many glories—and challenges—of Kazakh food, for PBS:

I was less sanguine about kumys. There is a whole universe of milk-based products in Kazakh cuisine. Kumys, or fermented mare’s milk, is probably the most famous. I first smelled it on a train from Almaty to Karaganda, as my gruff, middle-aged bunkmate offered me a sip after hearing me complain of an upset stomach. I crinkled my nose and politely declined. Months later, I tried it. If the thought of fizzy, sour yogurt sounds appealing, be my guest.

Nathan, naturally, disagrees with my dislike of kumys (I also consider okroshka absolutely revolting). I also included some inauthentic recipes for Manti and a yogurt sauce! So I’m sure everyone will love talking about their favorite—and least favorite—Central Asian food in the comments.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Kirstin April 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

The more I eat it, the more I’m beginning to dislike besh barmak, especially when horse meat is added or too many pieces of mutton fat. Also, not traditionally Central Asian, but that Russian salad that’s a layer of herring covered with potatoes, beets, and mayo is pretty vile. And I haven’t tried kumys yet, but for beverages, maksim is awful!

As for good Central Asian food, lagman is wonderful.

Nathan Hamm April 13, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I keep hearing that lagman is good. Every time I had it in Uzbekistan, it should have just been called “shitty lasagna.” I can’t stand the stuff. I like the basics: manti, shashlyk, somsas, and osh.

ScottP April 14, 2011 at 3:36 am

I found laghman to be a bit hit or miss in Kazakhstan. It seemed to keep alternating between bland rubbish and amazingly tasty. Beshbarmak was another one that could go either way; tried it in a few restaurants and wasn’t all that impressed, but had it homemade when someone invited us to dinner in Shymkent and really enjoyed it.

Big fan of most of the other stuff mentioned. Well…kumys was….not quite the repulsive bile I was expecting it to be, but not exactly something I went out of my way for.

And as someone with deadly seafood allergies, those Russian salads scared the shit out of me. Why hide fish in everything????

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