Kyrgyzstan is home to many different nationalities and their various cuisines. In larger cities, such as Bishkek, Osh, Jalal-Abad and Karakol, you can find many options at any price range. On the road and in the villages, the cuisine tends to be standard Kyrgyz dishes, liberally flavored with oil or sheep fat, which are considered both delicious and extremely healthy by the local population.
Bread and tea (“Nan y Chai”) are considered almost sacred by the native people. A good host always offers their guests bread and tea, even if the guests are only staying for a few moments. Kyrgyz bread is cooked over coals in tandoori-like ovens. It is round and relatively flat. The local people love to dip it in their homemade jams or ”ayran”, a thick cream somewhat like cream cheese.
”Shashlik” is meat that has been marinated for hours then cooked on spears over smoking coals. Shashlik is made from beef, chicken, and fish, but most especially from mutton. Each shashlik usually has a fat ratio of one-to-one with meat. They are delicious when cooked fresh, but after being allowed to sit for a time (as is often the case with “Bazaar” shashlik) they can cool into greasy blobs.
”Samsi” are little pockets of meat and vegetables wrapped in flakey pastry, very similar to Indian samosas. They are stuffed with mutton and fat most often, but are also made with chicken, cheese, cabbage, and beef. The can be bought in most bazaars or on street corners in larger cities.
The Kyrgyz national dish is ”Besh Barmak”, the “Five Fingers”, so called because it was traditionally eaten by hand. It is essentially meat (horse, beef, or mutton) boiled in its own broth for several hours, served over homemade noodles. This dish is most often made during a feast to celebrate a birth or important birthday, or to mourn a death, either at a funeral or on an anniversary.
A version of rice pilaf called ”plov” is prepared throughout the country, but said to be made best in the South, as it is traditionally an Uzbek dish. It is cooked over a fire in a large semi-circular pot called a ”kazan”. Plov is made from pieces of meat (chicken, mutton or beef) cooked in hot oil, then mixed with chopped carrots and rice, as well as raisins or apricots depending on the preference of the cook.
”Lagman” is a dish that consists of thick homemade noodles covered in chopped peppers and other vegetables in a vinegary, spicy sauce. This is served almost everywhere in Kyrgyzstan, but is said not to be a Kyrgyz dish at all, but rather a [[Dungan]] one.
A popular Kyrgyz beverage that can only be found in the summer time is called ”kymyz”. It is a slightly alcoholic drink made from fermented mares’ milk, and can be purchased on the roadside in the mountains from May until August.