Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is Kazakh food spicy?

A lot of people ask me "Is Kazakh food spicy?"...I guess, I know why would people ask this question. Because Kazakhs, including me, look asian. And the question is fair enough...we all tend to judge on appearances first...until we get to know people closer.

So, is Kazakh Food spicy? Answer is "No, it is not". Kazakhs never ate spicy food, because, number 1: Kazakhs historically did not farm the land and, therefore, didn't grow fruits and vegetables nor any spices up until late 19th century. They would get dried fruits in exchange for meat products from settled nations like Uzbeks. (I am not a certified historian. But I was educated in kazakh language for 15 years and passed my history class with flying colors ;-)). 2. Even if they would decide to grow spices for a crazy reason... instead of tending to their life stock...the spices like hot chili peppers would not survive in some mountaneous areas as well as in the steppes. I hope this explains why Kazakh food is not spicy.

What did Kazakhs eat for centuries? Kazakhs bread sheeps and horses. In some southern areas they bread camels and in some areas cows as well. They call these four types of animals "Tort tulik mal". Which means "4 main(sacred)" animals. So their main diet included meat of these animals, milk and milk products (yougurt like drink called "Airan", cheese products "Qurt", "Irimshik", "Suzbe", "Qatyq", etc.), wheat and other whole grains that Kazakhs grew in some parts of Kazakhstan, tea they would get from the main trading route on "Silk Road" and dried fruits and vegetables they would get in exchange for meat and leather products on the same trading route.

In the last century the diet of Kazakhs would change due to influence of other nations in the Soviet Union. Russian, Ukranian, Korean, Uzbek, Uigur, German cuisines would be introduced and would be mixed in. So, namely, the workers of the Soviet Union will have to be fed at factories, plants, daycares, schools and colleges. There would be one standardized menue approved by Ministry of Health in Moscow. Someone who studied and worked at the facotry near Moscow will be served exactly the same boiled borsch, fried cutlet and mashed potatoes for lunch at 2 pm as someone in Kazakhstani factory. And even with the total sovietization the food didn't get any spicier. Because the spiciest thing in Russian cuisine is black pepper.

So, you won't find hot chili peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers and not even a paprika in Kazakh and, not even in Russian cuisine.

The simplest way to describe flavor of Kazakh cuisine is - rich to the extent being heavy sometimes, but not spicy.

Sau bolynyzdar - Good bye!

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