Because Kyrgyzstan still has ties to its nomadic herding roots, their diet is centered around meat and dairy. The cooking techniques and major ingredients have been strongly influenced by the nation’s nomadic way of life. Mutton (lamb) is the favorite meat although they are happy to eat beef, horse meat and goat. In summers a lot of cooking is done in big “kazans” (big cast iron or aluminum pot) over a fire with lots of root vegetables including potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage fried in with rice or homemade spaghetti noodles. The meat is often boiled in kazans as well with no part going to waste; the head, intestines, stomach, etc. all will be eaten with specific traditions tied to each. Kyrgyz cuisine tends to be liberally flavored with lots of oil or sheep fat, which are considered both delicious and healthy by the local population who are used to long cold winters where little grows. The shepherding lifestyle also values the dairy products that their herds provide including homemade butter, curds, kurut (dried salty yogurt balls), and of course “Kumis” (fermented mare’s milk). A visit to Kyrgyzstan is not complete without at least sampling “Kumis” from a “Jailo” (high mountain pasture) yurt family.
While we can try to modify/supplement your dietary needs (please let us know ahead of time if you have special dietary requirements), please be understanding that to have things completely vegan or vegetarian can be complicated in these isolated destinations. That being said however, most breakfasts and the majority of meals are replete with black tea and homemade bread with jam, honey and butter. Almost everywhere you go in Kyrgyzstan they serve inexpensive delicious round flat breads called “Tandir Nan” baked in clay ovens. Kyrgyz holidays are never complete without making an abundance of small fried bread pockets called “boorsok” to fill the table and send home in plastic bags to all of the guests along with candy, fruit and a hunk of meat.