Friday, September 11, 2009


Fresh snow caught us unprepared and we were "forced" to spend the entire day in the cabin. Luckily we had brought with us a kilo of apples, enough to make four portions of Applesauce.

This dish is so easily thrown together and is sure to please even the pickiest Kyrgyz cowboy. 

Start with peeling all the apples, and cutting them into pieces (any size will do, the smaller the pieces the quicker they'll cook). We added lemon juice of half a lemon to prevent browning and a tablespoon of lemon zest.

The cooking process is also very simple. Melt two tablespoons of butter and add the apple mixture and a third cup of sugar (you can adjust the sugar to your liking). Saute the ingrediants for ten minutes. Add water to cover the apples and let simmer, adding more water when needed to keep the apples covered. The apples will soften by themselves and you can help them by mashing them with a fork. After the apples reach applesauce consistency, add a spoonful of raisins, and let simmer for another five minutes.

We used the strong heat of the furnace to make our batch since it was all that was available in the cabin. When making applesauce on a stove top it might take longer.

All you need now is snow!

And a hungry Kyrgyz guide to enjoy it.

Trekking and Cooking

A 3 day trek to the mountains needs preparation, but it doesn't mean you have to settle for soup mix and potato powder. Our cook (who came with the package deal that also included horses, a guide and guard dog) was surprisingly innovative. 

Snacks for the road: peanuts, dried fruit, yellow cheese, bread and melon. This was a great mix of fiber and protein and kept us energized during the long journey.

Vegetarian Plov: This dish is traditionally cooked with lamb and its fat. As it is difficult to preserve fresh meat while on the road, this vegetarian version makes a tasty alternative.
The ingredients included oil, onion, carrots and rice, all sauted in a pot and left to boil after adding water. It was served with a spicy tomato and onion salad which we added to the steaming rice for extra flavor.

Potato Stew: This mixture of potatos, carrots, onions, garlic and dill, sauted and then left to rest in a bit of boiling water for half an hour, made for a hearty one pot meal.  When hiking for  few days, fresh herbs can really enhance otherwise boring dishes. In this case the dill made a difference.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ashlyanfu Noodles at the Al-Tilek Bazaar, Karakol

Karakol has a large population of Dungan, an ethnic group of Muslim Chinese found in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the Xinjiang province in China. Their cuisine combines Central Asian cooking with Far Eastern spices. 

Ashlyanfu Noodles are a light and delicious Dungan treat. Two types of noodles are mixed together in a bowl; cold wheat noodles and gelatinous bean noodles. The bean noodles are hand scraped from a mold.

A number of cold liquids are then added to the noodles. First, a vegetable mixture of tomatoes, green/red peppers, garlic and some fresh herbs. Then they are topped with a bit of very spicy red chili paste (beware!). Finally, a vinegary broth is poured over the dish, mixing everything together. 

The result is a tasty and fresh cold drowned noodle delicacy. Eat it with the locals on a bench at the market, and soak in the oriental atmosphere.  

Beet Salad at Kench Cafe, Karakol

The large Russian population in Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) is responsible for the many Russian dishes that appear on the menus around town. For dinner last night we tried a notable beet and corn salad, a popular Russian dish found all over Central Asia.  The cooked beets were sliced lengthwise into one inch strips, and were mixed together with corn and a somewhat garlicky mayonnaise dressing. We thought the Mayo was a little overdone, we would have gone leaner on the dressing. Starving after a full day on the road, we ate it all...