Food Travel In Kazakhstan

 

by Sue Reddel

Food Travel in Kazakhstan wasn’t what I expected. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. Upon doing a little research I learned that horse meat was often on the menu. Throwing away my thoughts of horses as “pets” or entertainment I headed to the city of Almaty to learn more.

Upon arriving at my hotel I asked the girls at the front desk for their favorite local restaurants. They were very friendly, a little shy, and giggled as they told me about horse meat and horse milk. Yes, horse milk or kumis is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare’s milk. Although kumis has the alcohol equivalent of most beers they warned me that it can “creep up on you” so be careful.

Horse Milk & Potato Ham and Cheese Dish
Horse Milk & Potato Ham and Cheese Dish

 

As my time was limited to 24 hours of exploring, I ventured to their favorite restaurant choice Tabeteuka on foot.  It was less than a half mile away and a beautiful day. Along the route you could see the Zailiysky Alatau mountains. Once the capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty, is still one of the most developed and culturally diverse cities in Kazakhstan. The city is on a major earthquake fault, which is one of the reasons the capital was moved. There is a constant earthquake threat there, and historically, there have been many very destructive quakes in Almaty.

Beautiful Mountain Scenery Mountain Scenery
Beautiful Mountain Scenery

The nearby mountains call tourists to visit for winter weather outdoor activities. For a panoramic look at Almaty take the cable car ride to Koktubey. On a clear day they say you can see all the way to Siberia!

I chose to sit on the outdoor patio to enjoy the lovely weather. I ordered the horse milk, a potato, ham and cheese dish, eggplant rolls, mutton in pastry and funchesa salad.

Eggplant Rolls
Eggplant Rolls

 

I have to admit, the horse milk just wasn’t to my taste. It was very gamey and strong – so no worries about me stumbling back to my hotel room after too much imbibing. A few sips was enough for me to say I tried it. The food, however, was another story. The eggplant rolls were quite nice and light – a terrific appetizer.

Funchesa
Funchesa

 

The finches consisted of light noodles with small bits of beef, shredded carrots and peppers. This also was a perfect appetizer dish.

Mutton in Pastry
Mutton in Pastry

 

The mutton in pastry was delicious. The mutton (grown sheep, as opposed to lamb) flavor is strong but the flaky pastry added a unique and super buttery flavor that was quite tasty.

Dining with Horses
Dining with Horses

 

The next day I ate at the restaurant in the Rahat Palace Hotel which had been highly recommended by several people with whom I had chatted. As I was being seated I noticed that all the artwork was of horses. It was more than a little awkward to be dining surrounded by portraits of the animal you might soon be eating.

Horse Sausage
Horse Sausage

 

However, I didn’t let that stop me. I had horse to taste. First up was a horse sausage. As you might suspect the meat was gamey but the sausage was also very fatty so it just wasn’t for me.

Horse Filet
Horse Filet

 

My final horse item was the horse filet served with roasted garlic and grilled onions. I must say that although it did not taste like a beef filet (which I love) it was not gamey either. It was very tender and actually quite delicious.

All in all my tastes of Kazakhstan were pretty good. My limited time didn’t let me explore as much as I would have liked but someday I’ll return to learn more about this huge country filled with pleasant and hard-working people.

QUICK BITE: A large country with unique food travel offerings Kazakhstan will have you exploring new flavors in no time at all.

 

22 thoughts on “Food Travel In Kazakhstan

  1. AAAH Horse meat! I had basashi last year while I was in Japan (horse sashimi) and although it wasn’t terrible, I wouldn’t have it again. It really did something awful to my bowels too (tmi?) It might have been because it was raw though!
    The horse fillet actually looks really tasty and the rest of the food sounds delicious.
    I know nothing about the food of Kazakhstan, so thanks for sharing. This post was really interesting. What took you there?

    1. I was doing some consulting work and my client had a office there. I should do a post on my customs experience there it was a real hoot. Didn’t think I was gonna get outta there. But all’s well that ends well. 😀

  2. I love food travel! While the eggplant balls look great, not sure I could manage the horse meat. And I sure wouldn’t like to be looking at horses while it was served. You are brave!

    1. The eggplant was pretty darn good. Not really brave just had to try it!

  3. We did a post on wanting to visit Kazakhstan about a month ago and hopefully one day we will make it there. The mountains look like they are waiting to be hiked!

    Iceland was another country where horse meat was on the menu. That fillet looks delicious despite it being from a horse.

    Ruth

    1. Thanks for stopping by Ruth. I was really disappointed that I didn’t have the time to get to the mountains. Guess I’ll just have to go back some time.

  4. I know very little about Kazakstan and am surprised how big it is! The food looks good and nicely presented. The potato ham and cheese dish reminds me of poutine sans gravy.

  5. I’m not too keen on horse meat or mutton, however I suspect if I grew up in a country where that was standard fare it would just seem normal to me. While in Russia I had a noodle dish very similar to the Funchesa you show. My dish was described as Uzbecki, so I would imagine it was a close relation. Did it have coriander seed and cumin in it? I remember being surprised at the Asian/Indian style seasonings.

    1. Hi Larissa! No it didn’t have cumin or coriander it was actually a bit bland. However, when you observe the folks in Kazakhstan you really do see quite a strong Asian influence in their faces. I’m sure a longer visit would uncover many Asian influences in the food.

  6. I have had horse a couple of times, not a big fan but it’s OK, even tried donkey in Sardinia, which was pretty good, but fermented horse milk… no thanks. Just goes to show that people will ferment and drink just about anything.

    1. Donkey? That’s a knew one for me. My co-founder and partner Diana loves donkeys so I can’t even imagine trying one.

  7. That potato and ham dish looks delicious – very artistic too. But the horse milk? Oh, no I don’t think I could drink it or even try the sausage. I think for me I’d go vegetarian in Kazakstan and eat very happily! You’re a real adventurer!

  8. I am curious as to how you found yourself in Kazakhstan to begin with – there must be a fascinating story about that! (Had to look it up on the map to be sure I was thinking it was in the right place, too! Woe is my ignorance – have only been as far as Sochi to its east.) We passed on “chevalle” in a Jasper, Alberta restaurant a few years ago, despite the assurance that European visitors to the Canadian Rockies ordered it “all the time.” The appetizers look delicious!

    1. Betsy as they say – ignorance is bliss! So don’t worry too much about passing on the horse delicacy. I’m also a media consultant and have had the privilege of traveling to lots of countries both somewhat standard like London, Paris, Madrid too off the beaten path like Kazakhstan, Jordan and the Ukraine. Lots more interesting stories and tastes to come so stay tuned. 🙂

    2. Hi Betsy! I was doing some consulting work that had me traipsing all over the world. I would typically travel from one spot to another. I believe that trip was Chicago to Kazakhstan to Vienna to Johannesburg to Sao Paolo to Rio De Janeiro back to Chicago. All in about 12 days. Exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I am truly a lucky lady!

  9. I passed when I had an opportunity to try horse meat, but one of these days I will eventually give in. the rest of the meals looked delicious sans the milk I’m sure I would not enjoy it either.

    1. Noel it’s definitely something you should try. Definitely wouldn’t make a habit out of it. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Horses are highly valued in Central Asia, so I’m somewhat surprised that they are a common menu item.

    That said, now that you’ve had a rather abrupt introduction to eating them, would you try Japan’s take, aka basashi? (http://buildingmybento.com/2012/10/09/japanese-horse-meat/)?

    In somewhat related news, US citizens – among nationals of a few other countries – can now visit Kazakhstan visa-free, at least until July 2015. Are you tempted with a return visit:)?

    1. Would I go back to Kazakstan? Yes! There’s still such much more to see and explore. Would I try horse meat again, probably not. The raw horse meat in Japan is not something that appeals to me. Thanks for stopping by! Safe and tasty travels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.