Kara Kum Desert

Nomadic Culinary Guide

Turkmenistan cuisine have the background of nomadic life. Based mainly on mutton meat and bread. Last period of XIX and XX centuries played important role, what influenced Russian and European meals in Turkmenistan. For example, Russian beet salad – vinegret or Russian Olivier salad become very popular meals for celebration of weddings, in restaurants or holidays. Shashlik (skewered grilled meat) is very popular in all Central Asia, Caucasus, Tatarstan in Russia, Turkey. Known under different names. Returning to Turkmen meals, here we can offer the list of following dishes. If you are meat lover – here, you can dive in world of meat dishes. As for vegetarian and vegan – choice not so high. People having allergies to gluten and meat should be careful. Turkmen meals have the simplicity to cook but are very nutritious and greasy.

Tamdyr- Oven To Make BreadChorek (Bread)Turkmens have ancient traditions for bread baking. Ancient nomad people did it the same way. First, clay rounded oven (tamdyr) build near a yurta. After fire left hot charcoals in clay oven. Flat dough pieces fixed inside on oven's vertical walls and closed with a cover. After some minutes the delicious bread cooked and ready. Served hot, sliced with hands (not by knife). There are also meat bread (etli chorek), flaky bread with butter (yagly chorek). Bread is most respected in Turkmen traditions.

Shurpa SoupShurpa is number 1 soup on the tables in the country. Lamb broth, the boiled vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, fried onion, carrots), with boiled lamb meat and bones is served together in a bowl. Hot soup is very delicious. Salted and peppered to the taste. Sour cream can be offered who loves it. Sometimes bay leaves added when it is cooked.

Chorba SoupChorba is rich meat soup. Boiling lamb meat, with kidneys, heart, lungs with some tomatoes. Salted and peppered for seasoning. All ingredients cut in small pieces and mixed. Served hot in bowl with fresh chopped onions and pieces of bread or flatbread.

Picnic In DesertShashlik (Kebab)is common in all central Asia countries. There are lamb shashlik, beef, chicken, beef liver shashlik. The meat is marinated for some hours or for overnight in the strong marinade, like vinegar mixed with water or dry wine, or sour fruit or vegetable juice or sometimes just with coca, together with onions, herbs and spices. The recipe of ingredients can be different. Skewers are threaded with marinated meat (small or medium cube pieces), sometimes alternated by tomatoes, rounds of onion, all poured with vinegar water. Grilled on brazier over the heat of charcoal (resembles barbecue). For charcoal best to use the wood of saxaul (plant from Karakum desert), what gives also unusual taste to the grilled meat. Shashlik is served hot dressed with herbs and onions, grilled tomatoes or eggplants (aubergine). Lyulya Kebab – minced meat (chicken or beef) blended together with bread, onions in one pulp. Salted and peppered to the taste. Then skewered and cooked over the heat of charcoals. Served hot with herbs, grilled vegetables or salads.

Pilaf CookingPilaf is the main meal throughout in central Asia. There are many recipes but all are based on the main ingredients of meat and rice. Turkmen pilaf prefer lamb meat. Roasted meat is then cooked together with sliced onions and carrots in big cauldron (gazan). Then all boiled with the rice until it become slightly yellow. Pilaf is main dish and eaten with the hands. There are pilafs cooked with dried apricots, grapes. What makes different flavor.

Ovens in desertKovurma – purely nomadic meal. Well preserved during long travels in the desert. Even now, Turkmen take it when travel abroad. Small pieces of lamb meat deeply fried in animal fat. When it cooled, the thin skin of fat makes it white. Served hot or cold during travel. It is very nutritious and fatty. Here, the example of ovens used in desert to cook the nomad dishes.

Manty - the most known dish in central Asia and other countries around. Small or medium dumplings filled with few pieces of meat (lamb, beef, or pork), mixed with chopped onions, salted and peppered to the taste. All this put inside of multi- level steam cooker and cooked during 40-50 min. Served hot, with sour cream or local yogurt (to the taste). Stuffing options are with pumpkin, potatoes or spinach. There are also sweet manti, filled with jam.

Dograma(tear into pieces). The only Turkmen nomads meal done for big holidays, religious events, weddings celebrations, Kurbanlyk. First, Chorek is baked in tamdyr (traditional clay oven). Then, lamb meat is boiled in large cauldron (gazan) until it is so tender that start to fall off the bones. All this are torn into small pieces and mixed with chopped onions. Served in bowl with hot broth.

Kazanlama.Traditional shepherds' meal in the desert. Making fire, using saxaul wood. Then marinated lamb meat, with salt, garlic, paprika put directly on the hot charcoals. Covered by big cauldron and then all covered with slightly wet sand. After one hour, the delicious lamb meat cooked. Served hot, directly on the table.

Gutap (kind of patty) - Oval form flatbread stuffed with beef or lamb chopped meat and onions. All closed in oval pocket and fried on pan in cottonseed oil (or sunflower oil). Served hot as quick snack in bazaars or home. As culinary taste options, also stuffed with potatoes, pumpkin or spinach.

Samsa is another pasty like snack. Dough filled with chopped meat (lamb, beef or chicken), mixed together with onions. Instead of meat, it can be filled also with cheese, potatoes or pumpkin. Baked in oven or in traditional clay oven – tamdyr. Better to serve hot. Sold in bazaars, tea houses (chaukhana), on the streets. Delicious quick snack.

Chebureki is another quick snack, fried patty with minced meat (lamb, chicken or beef) with onions. Potatoes with carrots or pumpkin can be options for filling. Fried in cottonseed or sunflower oil. Oval or crescent like form. Good to serve hot.