The time for the latest blog post about Kazakhstan has arrived. I hope it is not the last one, and that I will have a chance to visit this incredible country again. Until then, let’s explore some little less shiny parts of Kazakhstan and taste some amazing food.
Starting with Nur-sultan which is a really nice, big and shiny city, but, if you decide to take a walk away from the city centre, pretty soon you will come to one of the not so rich neighbourhoods. The example of it was Karaganda, a city where on the one side of the road is a big villa with a giant wall and barbed wire all around the house and on the other side of the road is the small and simple wooden house. The difference in wealth is huge. Going further, you’ll notice the differences in the cars on the road. Most of the cars are old at least 30-40 years, but there are also a lot of brand new super expensive cars and SUVs.
New residential buildings were rising almost every time I visited Nur Sultan. Sometimes it was only a month in between visits and in that time some buildings were finished and new ones were started to be built. I was surprised by the number of new ones and how big and luxurious they look. But one thing was interesting, all the apartments were in complete darkness during the early night like nobody is living in them. I have asked some locals about this and they have told me that nobody lives in those buildings and most of the people live outside of the centre. This only proved what I thought about Nur Sultan in the beginning – the whole city is built to impress and look nice for tourists and visitors, but local people don’t benefit from it, at all.
There are a lot of shopping malls which are full of people walking around or eating in fast food chains. There are some very expensive clothing stores but I didn’t notice a lot of people entering and shopping, quite the contrary, I have rarely seen people with bags of goods purchased.
All the above and the following photos, until the food part, were made with Smena 8m camera and different types of films. Smena was the first camera that I had a chance to get in my hands when 3 years old, literally – when my mother was in labor with my sister, she handed me my first Smena camera to play with, to calm me down. Naturally, as this was my first time in Kazakhstan it made sense to connect these few dots; Smena as the camera made in the Soviet Union and my first contact with any kind of camera. So, I took Smena with me to Kazakhstan and tried to take pictures with it which was complicated, to say the least, due to being very hard to find one completely working Smena. I had three of them and on most, it was the same problem, plastic gears on film tensioning wheels were broken and that is why I had a lot of double exposures.
Even though this series of images show a less shiny part of Kazakhstan, it gives a unique look on life. For me, it was important to see all this and it gave me a great feeling of how appreciative I should be for everything in my life. Most of the local people would be very happy to live in Europe and they desire it a lot. But for us, it is a normal thing and I think a lot of people don’t appreciate it or they want even more than they have.
The part I enjoy the most in Kazakhstan is food. I always liked to eat, taste new dishes and I came to the right place to explore. Kazakhstan cuisine is a mixture of the Russian, Chinese, Georgian, and Uzbek cuisine. The food is always freshly made, with a lot of meat and vegetables and it is cheap compared to Europe. In winter, when temperatures go to -40°C, it is really important to eat regularly and the right type of food because you need a lot of energy for low temperatures.
One of the interesting starters is Chebureki. It’s a deep-fried pastry with ground meat and onions inside. The right way to eat it is to first bite one corner and drink the soup from the cooking, and then eat the rest of it. The soup itself is very delicious, and in combination with crispy pastry and meat, it is a great way to start dinner.
Pilaf or Plov, as it is called in Kazakhstan, is a rice dish with different types of meat. In Kazakhstan, it is mostly served with lamb and it contains a lot of fat. The dish itself is not something extraordinary, but the spices are amazing. Cumin and coriander are the main ingredients that lift up all the other flavours and give the smell of tradition to the dish. I was told that Plov is a very common dish in Kazakh cuisine and that every chef has his own way of making it. For me, this was the best thing I tried in Kazakhstan, and I could eat it every day.
One of the most popular Kazakh dishes is Beshbarmak. It is served on special occasions and it is made from horse meat with noodles and onions. In Kazakh tradition, nomads would gather in yurts and have a meal with their fingers. The meal is very strong and not many people like it. Alongside with the meal, for a drink you will be offered kumis, fermented horse (mare) milk with a very strong scent and flavour. If you don’t like Beshbarmak, don’t even try kumis, it is far stronger in scent and taste and you will need some time to get used to it.
Kazan kebab is not an original Kazakh dish and I think it originates from Uzbekistan. It is basically fried meat with potatoes and I have heard a story that this dish is served only to men in special “restaurants” where men would gather to socialise and gamble but women are not allowed to enter.
Steaks are very popular in Kazakhstan and in almost every better restaurant there is a good range of steaks. Since Kazakhs history lays on the horse meat, the steaks are following the same pattern. I didn’t have a chance to taste the horse steak before, and I thought it would be very tough meat since horses are very big and strong animals. I was surprised by how tasty and tender the meat was. If I didn’t know what type of meat it was, I would be wrong for sure.
If you think that Kazakhs only eat meat, well the soups are no different. It is very hard to find soup without meat. Most of them are vegetable-based but the meat is the main ingredient. I enjoyed almost all the soups there since all of them are freshly made and it is very hard to get artificial bag soups in a restaurant.
One thing is for sure, Kazakhs know how to eat and enjoy food. It was such a pleasure to experience good and some little less good things in Kazakhstan. Even now when I’m long home, I miss it a lot. Some things get under your skin, no matter how cold or grey winter is in Kazakhstan, I miss it. I wish to go to Kazakhstan again in the near future to visit all those great places that I didn’t have a chance to visit. I hope Kazakhstan will persist in their culture and their way of life until that time.
HERE ARE MY OTHER POST FROM KAZAKHSTAN
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