National Cuisines of Kyrgyzstan
Gallery of Recipes


Shashlyk is a traditional kebab – cubes of meat, often marinated overnight, and then put on a skewer before being cooked over burning embers. It is a popular dish – and found in many cafes and restaurants ... especially roadside stops, (such as the yurts in Boom Gorge on the road to Issyk Kul). However, in some cafés, although it may be on the menu – it may not be available all the time.

Any sort of meat can be used ... but it is usually lamb or mutton. In Bishkek it is sometimes possible to find shashlyk made from Beef, Liver, Chicken – watch out for the bones, Pork, Fish and even vegetables – especially for vegetarians.   

Shashlyk is ordered by the palochki – or skewer. A skewer usually has four pieces of "meat" ... or, if the meat is not particularly fatty, then at least three pieces of meat and one piece of pure fat. The fat is considered important ... it is not only the local tendency to prefer fatty meats, the fat dips onto the embers fuelling the embers and adding to the heat as well as adding moisture and tenderising the meat. However, many Westerners find the piece of fat inedible ... and one received a surprise when he was given a discount, "because he had ordered shashlyk without fat". (This isn't common practice.)

The burning embers are usually sticks or wood – although charcoal may be used (as in a barbeque) it is not very common. The wood is placed in a special metal tray called a "mangal", set alight and fanned to encourage the flames and build up the temperature.  The flames die out and the fuel left to smoulder – building up heat. The palochki are laid across the sides of the mangal – suspended about 10cm above the embers. It can take 10-20 minutes for the meat to be properly cooked.

When cooked the skewers are lain on a bed of sliced onions on a plate and served to the diner. In some cafes and restaurants, the meat will have been removed from the skewers before being put onto the plate – but if it is still on the palochki, then it can either be eaten from the skewer itself, or pushed off the skewer onto the plate using a fork. It is usual to dress the shashlyk with ooksus – vinegar, which is a clear liquid, usually made from a concentrate diluted with water.

There is a tradition that shashlyk is always prepared and cooked by a male member of the family.

It may be best to advise caution when buying shashlyk as "street food" ... but when served by your host or in a cafe or restaurant there should be problem. Provided the meat hasn't been standing for long and is well cooked, then shashlyk can be a filling and tasty meal. One or two palochki are often sufficient for most appetites ... but as it can take time to prepare, cook and serve additional skewers, it is wise to decide early on how many to order so that additional, supplementary, orders are not needed.

Shiskebek (a shish kebab from mutton)

Ingredients: Mutton (brisket or hip) 220 g; onions 60 g; vinegar (3 %) 20 g; ground red and black pepper, salt, other spices, sugar - to taste.  If you wish, instead of mutton, it is possible to use beef (rib steak / upper cut). For 1 portion.


Cut the meat into cubes of about 15 g, marinate in a sauce made from the salt, pepper, finely cut onions, and vinegar for 4-7 hours. Place the meat onto skewers and fry (barbecue) over burning coals. When serving, dress with the marinated onions cut into thin rings. Also, it is possible to serve with a salad made from tomatoes cut slices on which the onions, cut into half rings, are spread together with pomegranate kernels.