National Cuisines of Kyrgyzstan
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Dungan Cuisine

Dungan Cuisine is a very distinctive style of cooking which originated in the East and is very popular all over the world due to the variety and originality of its dishes which have a particular piquancy and multiplicity of flavours.  Labbe, a French traveler and a member of the Paris Geographical Society, was so impressed by the meal served by his Dungan hosts during a visit to Karakunuz, (modern day Sokuluk – not far from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek), in September 1897 that he gave his compliments declaring that in all his travels through the Russian domains in Central Asia – nowhere had he tasted meals as good.

Dungan cuising first appeared in the Russian province of Semeriechye, (Seven Rivers – one of which is the Chui river in Northern Kyrgyzstan), in the late nineteenth century when a number of Chinese Muslim refugees (who later became known as Dungans) crossed the border and migrated to Russia.  Culinary art was an important aspect of life for them and family members would learn the necessary skills and technique from early childhood – with girls as young as 6 and 7 helping to prepare meals. 

Dungan cuisine can be divided into three distinct types: daily, celebratory and ceremonial. Of particular importance are the certemonial meals. There are many cermonies associated with the life of a child – especially in the case if the eldest son in the family. The grandparents arrange a celebration, Shityan, for the father of the newborn to which close relatives are invited. Others are connected with courtship and weddings. Gi Hua, for example, is a celebration given by an intermediary for the bride and groom when the bride consents to the marriage. A Dungan wedding normally lasts for 3 or 4 days, and on the fourth day, when the bride arrives at the home of the groom, visitors are treated to a special wedding dish: Shi.

Dungan cuisine utilises a wide variety of spices, and their skillful use is considered to be an art. Amongst the spices commonly used are: cloves; aniseed, coriander, ginger, cinamon, red pepper and fennel. For most dishes a special mix of five different spices, tyochoe, is used.

Seasonings, as opposed to spices, also play an important role in Dungan cuisine and these require special preparation. These preparations are applied to many different dishes – and some (such as U pe lazy, can be added to any dish. The preparation of most seasonings involves the use of vinegar.

Vegetables also have an important place in Dungan cuisine and they are to found in all Dungan dishes.  From early Spring until late Autumn, Dungans use fresh vegetables in their cooking, and in the Winter, when fresh vegetables are scarce, they make use of they make skilful use of various pickles, marinades and other preparations. For example, fried string beans and dried aubergine added to rice and sauerkraut (Suan Byitse and Suan Lyanhuaby) become staple vegetables dishes on a Dungan table. Dungan salads always use fresh vegetables, sliced immediately before serving and usually use vegetable oil and red pepper – so they tend to be sharp to the taste.

Over the centuries, Dungan cooks have developed a technique of cooking vegetables involving fast frying and steaming – taking at most 10-15 minutes. The vegetables are first fried in a little vegetable oil in a kazan – a heavy pan similar to a large “wok” – with, or without, meat and then steamed. As well as being used as seasoning, the fried vegetables can also serve as separate dishes in their own right.

The various dishes of Dungan cuisine are prepared with noodles or rice – referred to as “fan”.  In fact, the fan is used also used to refer in general. One of the most widespread and favourite dishes of Dungan cuisine is Lumyan – although more commonly known as Laghman, (according to the authors of the book “Dungan Cuisine”, this name is derived from the Dungan “Lyonmyan”), but it is also known as Gungur Myan, Ban Fan and Lyonmyan.  Lumyan is prepared with noodles, (made from flour, salt and water), stretched into long strings, (maybe as much as 4 meters long), and boiled in salted water. Various vegetables are then added as a sauce to the noodles.

Other dishes also involve noodles and broth, such as Tontyanchur, Tontyanpyar and Tontyantyer. Yet others are made with rice as a base – such as Ganminfan.     

Baked and fried sweetcakes also figure prominently in Dungan cuisine. They serve as an integral part of the traditional tea table. They are made from ingredients which are easily to hand, such as vegetable oil, flour, and eggs. Ton Mehmeh, for example, are stuffed sweet puff pastries and Ton Byanshi are puff pastries fried in oil and Sanzi is fried pasta.

 

Source: Х.Ю. Юсуров, З.Г. Юсурова, «Дунганская кухня», производственное (практическое) издание, 2-е издание. Бишкек, «КЫРГЫЗСТАН», 1991