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