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.