Genevieve Gunow ("Genna") spent the spring semester of 2008 at the American University - Central Asia on SRAS's Russian as a Second Language program, studying Kyrgyz as well. She also married her Kyrgyz fiancée while abroad (read their story here) and so spent her semester also under the tutelage of her future mother-in-law, in a traditional process that is meant to pass down recipes and domestic skills. She has shared here some of the recipes she learned.

Kyrgyz Foodways
Beshbarmak, Borsok, and Eggplant Salad
By Genevieve Gunow

  Genna with a plate of Beshbarmak, a traditional Kyrgyz dish
Genna with a plate of Bishbarmak, a Kyrgyz noodle dish whose name means "Five Fingers."
It is traditionally eaten without utensils.

Less than a hundred years ago, the Kyrgyz were almost entirely nomadic. Though most Kyrgyz live in villages today, their traditional dishes still reflect their nomadic past. Meat is considered to be the most important food, and an integral part of any good meal. When important guests come to visit, Kyrgyz will still slaughter a sheep, cow, or horse (most who live in villages still keep them) to honor the guests. Horse meat is the most prized, and is usually eaten only on very special occasions. Since the Kyrgyz's most common livestock animal is sheep, mutton is the most common meat.

Following the animal's slaughter, the men gather to butcher and prepare the meat. This is usually done outside, over a large fire. They boil the meat in large iron kettles for about two hours, making sure the meat is thoroughly cooked. No part of the animal is wasted-the Kyrgyz even boil the heart, eyes, and liver. The hooves are usually saved to make gelatin later. After the meat is done cooking, the Kyrgyz discuss who will receive which portion of meat. Different slices of  meat have different meanings, and it is important to give the oldest the most valuable pieces. The youngest, meanwhile often receive less desirable portions of meat, such as the ears, which are given to them to teach them to listen to their elders.

Finally, it is time for the meal. With each course, the youngest woman in the hosting family serves tea. If the family happens to have a mare, she mixes mare's milk in with the tea. For the first course, the women serve several salads, such as the eggplant salad mentioned below. Along with these salads, they serve small pieces of fried bread, known as borsok, along with homemade jams and dried fruit. The next course is usually beshbarmak. This simple dish of noodles, meat, and onions is a favorite in Kyrgyzstan and sometimes referred to as Kyrgyzstan's "national dish." The final course is always meat from the slaughtered animal. If the family is wealthy enough to afford it, they will make sure that everyone receives a large portion. The more meat a person receives, the more impressive the hosts will appear. The quality of meat is also important. Preferred sections of meat include the head and thigh, though slices of fat are also very popular. Often, these chunks of meat are too large for anyone to eat in one sitting, so as the meal concludes, the hosts pass around plastic bags for everyone to package up their leftover meat along with the remaining salad and borsok. Everyone should leave the meal satisfied and unable to eat anymore.

All recipes supplied below are provided in Russian and English - for those who would like to practice their Russian language skills as well as their Kyrgyz culinary skills!

- Borsok -

Borsok, which is Kyrgyz fried bread, is always made in large quantities for special occasions. When guests arrive, the Kyrgyz will cover the surface of a table with borsok, with jams, dried fruit, butter, and/or ayran, a spread similar to cream cheese. Guests can munch on borsok throughout dinner. The Kyrgyz traditionally cook borsok outside, above a wood (or sometimes dung) burning stove.

Borsok, a traditional Kyrgyz fried bread



2 cups of flour
½ tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon yeast
¼ cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup olive oil



2 чашки муки
пол столовой ложки соли
четверть чайной ложки сахара
четверть чайной ложки дрожжей
четверть чашки молока
1 яйцо
пол чашки оливкового масла


Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and stir in the milk. Combine the two mixtures, stir them together, and stir in warm water slowly until the mixture holds together but is not sticky. Cover the mixture and place it in a warm part of the house. After two hours, roll the dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles.

Pour ¼ cup oil into a saucepan and heat on medium high. Additional oil may be needed depending on the size of the saucepan. Make sure the oil completely covers the surface of the pan. Once the oil is heated, fry the borsok in the pan. Depending on the size of the pan, you can fry 4-8 borsok at the same time-but be sure that they do not overlap. Fry the borsok until it puffs up and is golden brown on the bottom. Flip the borsok over to fry the other side until it is also golden brown. Add additional oil as needed to keep a thin coat of oil on the surface of the pan.


Смешайте муку, сахар, дрожжи и соль. В другой чашке, разбейте яйцо и смешайте с молоком. Смешайте содержимое двух чашек вместе, добавляйте теплую воду и помешивайте до тех пор, пока не образуется единая смесь, но не до клейкого состояния. Накройте крышкой и поместите в тепло.  Через два часа, раскатайте тесто до слоя толщиной 0,6 сантиметров. Порежьте тесто на прямоугольники размером примерно 2,5 на 5 сантиметров.

Вылейте на сковородку четверть чашки растительного масла и нагрейте на среднем огне. Если сковорода большая, может понадобиться большее количество растительного масла. Масло должно полностью покрывать поверхность сковороды. После того, как масло нагрелось, жарьте борзок на сковороде. В зависимости от размера сковороды, можно одновременно жарить 4-8 борзоков, чтобы они не накладывались друг на друга. Жарьте борзок до тех пор, пока он не станет пышным, а его нижняя сторона не примет золотисто-оранжевый цвет. Переверните борзок на другую сторону и также жарьте до золотисто-коричневого цвета. Добавляйте растительное масло по мере необходимости, с тем, чтобы оно покрывало поверхность сковороды тонким слоем. 

- Eggplant Salad -

This is one of my mother-in-law's favorite recipes. Though it looks like a sandwich, the Kyrgyz call it "eggplant salad."

Kyrgyz eggplant salad

Eggplant Salad


1 large eggplant
3 eggs
½ teaspoon salt.
½ cup oil
2 tomatoes
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves

Салат из баклажанов


1 большой баклажан
3 яйца
пол чайной ложки соли
пол чашки подсолнечного масла
два помидора
четверть чашки майонеза
2 головки чеснока


Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the salt. Cut the eggplant into thin circles 1/8 inch thick. Soak the slices in the egg mixture.

Pour ¼ cup oil into a saucepan and heat on medium high. Additional oil may be needed depending on the size of the saucepan. Make sure the oil completely covers the surface of the pan. Once the oil is heated, fry the eggplant until the bottom is golden brown (about 2 minutes). Flip the eggplant over to the other slide and fry until that side is also golden brown. Add ¼ cup more oil to the bottom of the pan when the oil coating evaporates.

Crush two garlic cloves and mix with mayonnaise in a bowl. Spread the mixture onto the fried eggplant slices. Cut the tomatoes into thin slices, and place a slice on top of each eggplant slice. To make the eggplant easier to eat, double the eggplant over the tomato slice and place a toothpick through the middle.


Разбейте яйца в чашку и добавьте соль. Порежьте баклажан тонкими ломтиками толщиной 0,3 сантиметра. Промокните ломтики баклажана в тарелке с яйцами.

Вылейте четверть чашки растительного масла на сковородку и нагревайте на среднем огне. Если сковорода большая по размеру, можно добавлять больше растительного масла. Масло должно полностью покрывать поверхность сковороды.  После того, как масло нагреется, жарьте баклажан до тех пор, пока он не станет золотисто-коричневого цвета (около 2 минут). Переверните баклажан на другую сторону и жарьте до тех пор, пока эта сторона также не примет золотисто-коричневый цвет. Добавьте еще четверть чашки растительного масла на сковороду, когда масло будет испаряться.

Растолките две головки чеснока и смешайте с майонезом в глубокой тарелке.  Обмакните в эту смесь ломтики жареных баклажан. Порежьте помидоры на тонкие кусочки, и поместите эти кусочки наверх каждого ломтика баклажана. Положите на кусочек помидора второй ломтик баклажана, и скрепите все зубочисткой.

- Beshbarmak -

Beshbarmak is one of the most traditional Kyrgyz dishes. The Kyrgyz were almost entirely nomadic until only a hundred years ago, and have retained many of their traditions. Though most Kyrgyz live in villages now, many still own livestock. For special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays, Kyrgyz will slaughter a sheep or cow to celebrate. On these holidays, the Kyrgyz always make Beshbarmak. Beshbarmak means "five fingers" in Kyrgyz, and is traditionally eaten without utensils.

Beshbarmak is often refered to as Kygyzstan's national dish



4 cups of flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon salt
1.5 pounds of lamb
(or beef)
2 teaspoons salt
1 onion



4 чашки муки
1 яйцо
1 столовая ложка соли
500 грамм ягнятины
(или говядиной)
2 чайных ложки соли
1 луковица

Preparing the meat:

Boil 5 cups of water. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Slice the onion into thin circles. Add the lamb and onion to the water and continue to boil the meat for two hours. After two hours, remove the meat and cut into strips.

Preparing the noodles:

Mix the flour with the salt. Add the egg. Stir in warm water until the mixture holds together but is not sticky. Kneed the dough for five minutes. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes and then roll out the dough until it is ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into thin strips (about ¼ inch wide). Once the meat has finished cooking, and has been removed from the water, add the noodles. Cooking the meat in the water will create a meaty broth, which will give the noodles extra flavor. Boil the noodles for five minutes. To add additional flavor, you can add some more onion slices at this time, letting them boil with the noodles for five minutes. After five minutes, remove the noodles and onions while saving the broth.

Combine the meat, noodles, and onion in a bowl. Pour ¼ cup of the broth on top of the noodles, giving them extra flavor. The dish is now ready to serve. While eating beshbarmak, Kyrgyz drink the remaining broth in tea cups, which complements the dish nicely.


Приготовление мяса:

Вскипятите воду (5 чашек). Добавьте 2 чайные ложки соли. Порежьте лук тонкими кружками. Добавьте в воду ягнятину и лук и кипятите мясо в течение двух часов. Через два часа, выньте мясо и порежьте его на полоски.

Приготовление лапши:

Смешайте муку с солью. Добавьте яйцо. Добавляйте воду до тех пор, пока образуется единая масса, но не клейкая. Дайте тесту постоять 10 минут, и затем раскатывайте его до слоя 0,6 сантиметра. Порежьте тесто на тонкие полоски (шириной около 0,6 сантиметра). После того, как мясо приготовлено и удалено из воды, добавьте в воду лапшу. После приготовления мяса в воде, получится мясной бульон, который придаст лапше дополнительный аромат. Кипятите лапшу пять минут. Чтобы еще более улучшить аромат, вы можете добавить еще несколько кружков лука, и кипятить их с лапшой еще пять минут.  Через пять минут, выньте лапшу и лук, но оставьте бульон.

Смешайте мясо, лапшу и лук в глубокой тарелке. Налейте четверть чашки бульона на лапшу, чтобы придать ей дополнительный аромат. Блюдо можно подавать на стол. Когда киргизы едят бешбармак, они пьют оставшийся бульон из чайных чашек, что прекрасно сочетается с этим блюдом. 

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