Kazakhstan tourist day one evening
After my exertions of the day we are off to dinner with a colleague of Judi’s. I think he is Ukrainian but not quite sure and if I am correct it would seem that people come here without being forced any more.
We are going local, which means local food although the place we stop at is very modern and themed with the staff dressed up in some peasant styles costumes. The restaurant is almost empty but it is Tuesday night and probably more of an impact is the fact that we are in a Muslim country and they are observing Ramadan which is daily fasting between sunrise and sunset. There is one large table occupied by what looks like an extended family with a range of ages from 12 to 90.
We settle in and Judi orders some Kazakh wine which might be interesting or not. Our host chooses several starts for us all of which seem to be either bread or pastry filled with things, a little like the snack I had earlier although this time I think I can de-code what is inside. All I am thinking at that moment is there is another English breakfast waiting for me in the morning but hey that’s several hours away.
Across from us there is a small stage which indicates there are live shows some nights but not tonight, there is also a large TV screen and there are showing what looks very much like “Kazakhstan’s got Talent” or “Kazakhstan Idol”. Either way there is a parade of singers all belting out tunes with a lot of passion but not a lot of melody. There are some older ladies who are dressed in some exaggerated gowns, very bright and kitschy. The men seem to favor puffed sleeved shirts and extravagant haircuts.
Our dinner arrives and I miss getting the voting number for the Diva with the bright orange outfit. I am having “Beshparmak” which should be interesting. When we ordered I had the choice of Pig or horse I of course chose horse. It’s not my first time and I have had Cheval in Switzerland and it’s not that bad its just meat and I think easier to digest so it may be better for you. The word Beshparmak means five fingers which is the eating method although I am not going that far. You know I cannot resist the specials an consider myself fortunate that there was no Kumys or Mypalau on the menu a Kumys is fermented horse milk Mypalau is from a camel. What arrives is something like a sliced roast beef, not very thick but quite lean. It is on a bed of flat pasta just like you would use for lasagna and some boiled onion rings. There is a clear sauce which makes the whole thing a little watery. It tastes fine and I tuck in.
Judi is having Plov which we know as Pilaf but its origins are somewhere around Tajikistan or Iran (both close by) and it was first mentioned in some records of Alexander the Great in Bactria which was an eastern Iranian province, probably the birthplace of Alexander’s wife Roxana and geographically located in modern Afghanistan. It was known to have been served upon his capture of the Sogdian capital of modern Samarkand. Alexander’s army brought it back to Macedonia and spread it throughout Europe. (Thank you Google). The difference here is that the rice is simmered in a stock and it really improves it.
The other diners are now saying prayers lead by an elder and everyone falls silent to listen. Once complete everyone at the table gets up and either shakes hands or kisses everyone else. The older ladies go around and collect all the bread and Manti they can lay their hands on to take home with them. After a great deal of hugging they make their way to the exit. It will be dawn soon enough and the fasting will begin again.
We finish up and chat for a while but given we did not start until 9:30 pm it is now late and I have another adventure tomorrow. Katie said the Canyon is far away and we need to get an early start so she would pick me up early at 8:00 am (early? everything is relative)