Food offerings vary across the country from multitudinous cultural restaurants in Bishkek to a single cafeteria in smaller towns and villages. Expect a standard menu of Kyrgyz favorites in rural areas, primarily mutton-based and heavy on carbs. As everywhere in Central Asia, finding meat-free meals is a tall order. In big cities your best hope will be Chinese or Italian restaurants. In smaller areas, some homestays can prepare vegetarian options.

Kyrgyzstani Food Guide

A great resource on Kyrgyz cuisine is http://tastes.kg.

Typical Kyrgyzstani dishes include:

  • Laghman: Mildly spicy, fat noodles generally served in soup, though bozo laghman is fried. There are numerous other variants.
  • Beshbarmak: Literally ‘five fingers’, since it is traditionally eaten by hand. The usual recipe sees large flat noodles topped with lamb and/or horsemeat cooked in vegetable broth.
  • Kesme: Thick noodle soup with small bits of potato, vegetable and meat.
  • Mampar: Tomato-based meat stew with gnocchi-like pasta pieces.
  • Shorpa: Mutton soup.
  • Jurkop: Braised meat and vegetable dish with noodles.
  • Hoshan: Fried and steamed dumplings, similar to manty (stuffed dumplings); best right off the fire from markets.
  • Ashlyanfu: Cold rice-noodles, jelly, vinegar and eggs; a Dungan favourite.
  • Azu: Tatar dish of meat fried with pickles and vegetables, often served atop french fries.
  • Fynchozi: Spicy, cold rice noodles.
  • Ganfan: Rice with a meat and vegetable sauce.
  • Manty: Steamed dumplings made with meat or vegetables; particularly delicious with jusai, a mountain grass of the onion family.
  • Boorsok: Empty ravioli-sized fried dough-parcels to dunk in drinks or cream.
  • Kurut: Small, very hard balls of tart, dried yoghurt; a favourite snack.

Horsemeat sausages known as kazy, karta or chuchuk are a popular vodka chaser or addition to plov (Central Asian pilaf consisting of rice and fried vegetables).

Local drinks to look out for:

  • Kymys: Fermented mare’s milk, mostly available in spring and early summer; the national drink.
  • Bozo: Thick, fizzy drink made from boiled fermented millet or other grains.
  • Jarma and maksym: Fermented barley drinks, made with yeast and yoghurt. 'Shoro' is the best-known brand name with vendors serving from chilled barrels at most street corners in Bishkek and Osh.