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Food Culture among the Kirghiz

Kâmil Toygar-Nimet Berkok Toygar

Ecological factors, and geography in particular, exert a great influence on culinary culture. This is extremely visible in the folk cultures of the Turkic tribes living in Central Asia.

In our country, no comprehensive study of Kirghiz eating habits and culinary culture has yet been published. Studies in Russian and Kirghiz have yet to be translated into Turkish. On serious study on this subject is S. M. Abramzon’s Food Culture Among the Kirghiz,1 translated to Turkish by Hüsamettin Yıldırım. The information below was acquired from interviews with Kirghiz students living in Ankara.

Although the food in the towns and cities is different, and commercial food in particular, the poor and middle-income villagers subsist largely on soups and stews. One characteristic of such dishes is that they stretch ingredients to feed many people. The most common examples of such dishes are maksım and carma. Maksım is a dish made from boiling barley flour and hulled wheat. Carma is dried barley and wheat which is pounded in a wooden mortar, the boiled.

Other common soups are talkan, made from roasted and cracked barley, wheat and corn meal mixed with milk, yogurt or water; and köce, made of milk or ayran mixed with wheat. These soups are sometimes enriched with the addition of meat.

In the southern part of the country, a type of squash called aşkabak is an important food, and is made into a wide variety of dishes. The most common use is adding it to soup, cooking with ground meat with the addition of a type of hand rolled pasta, and eating along with roasted meat. This squash owes its popularity both to local taste and the fact that it grows nearly everywhere. The name aş kabak means “food squash.”

The most common breads are kömöç nan, which is cooked either in a pot or between two frying pans; and a type of bread baked in a tandır in the southern part of the country, in the Talas Valley basin. Kirghiz who go abroad frequently say that the food they miss the most is bread (nan) cooked in the tandır.

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