Historically, in nomadic life and predominantly stockbreeding systems, the diet followed consisted mainly of meat and dairy products. Meat was usually boiled without any seasoning. Milk was either boiled or sour. The plants used in cooking included millet, barley and wheat. Traditional millet was the most commonly used grain, in porridges and soups, and it has been cultivated by the Kyrgyz since ancient times.
The development of a material culture followed and the Kyrgyz were influenced by contact with the cultures of other peoples. This was also reflected in their cuisine. From the second half of the 19th century, their diet included national dishes borrowed from the Dungans and Uighurs, (Laghman, Chuchpara and Manti), from the Tajiks and Uzbeks, (Plov and Shashlik), and later Russians and Ukrainians, (Borsch, soups, etc.). With the development of farming, poultry and apiculture in day-to-day use followed included potatoes, vegetables, fruit, honey, sugar, confectionery, poultry, eggs and, (to some extent), fish were all incorporated into the national diet.
Modern Kyrgyz cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of meat, dairy and pastry dishes. Meat dishes are preparing from horsemeat, mutton, beef and poultry. Horsemeat has long been used for ritual meals. Particular delicacies are sausages made from horsemeat and fat, chuchuk, and meat assortment (featuring boiled horse meat, karyn, karta). The most common methods of cooking meat are boiling, stewing / braising and frying. For family and community celebrations the antique dish found amongst the nomads, beshbarmak, is still prepared: finely sliced lamb meat, with bullion and served with finely prepared home-made noodles.
Although dishes in modern Kyrgyz cuisine preserve their identity and national traditions, new dishes have appeared which has introduced a significant variety. Amongst the “borrowed” dishes are Shorpo, (a meat soup with potatoes and onion), Jarkop, (fried meat and potato), various salads and so forth. These dishes use a wide variety of vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, chives, cabbage, carrots and peppers. In the south of the country, pumpkins are a popular ingredient in soups, Pelmeni, Manti, Oromo, and other meat dishes.
- CD “Kyrgyzstan. Land of the Celestial Mountains”, an information pack, 2004-2009, © The Celestial Mountains Tour Company;
- “Современная киргизская кухня”, сборник рецептур, составитель С.Ш. Ибрагимова, Главная редакция Киргизской Советской Энциклопедии, Фрунзе, 1989.