Traditional Kazakh food reflects the customs of the nomadic peoples and also Middle Eastern influences. The nomads feasted on mutton, milk, cheese and bread. To these basics Middle Eastern methods of preparing rice, savoury seasonings, vegetables, legumes and yoghurt have been added. The many Russians in Kazakhstan eat a more typically Russian diet, with meat, potatoes, dumplings and vegetables.

 At a traditional meal, tea, called chai, is served first, with breads, nuts and sweets, as an appetizer. The main dish may be boiled mutton. Foods for special occasions include cold noodles with a horsemeat sausage called qazy, a rich mutton stew known as kuyrdak and a meat-and-noodle stew called besbarmak. Pulau is a much-loved mixture of rice, fruit and spices. Noodle soup with radishes and peppers is called kespe.

Yogurt, known as katyk, is often used in cooking. Cookies, halva, raisins, nuts and fresh fruit are enjoyed for dessert. Milky drinks are popular. Koumyss is fermented mare's milk and shubat is fermented camel milk. Vodka toasts at celebrations are part of Kazakh and Russian custom.

 In a traditional Russian meal, cold dishes like smoked fish, pickles and onions might be served first. These cold dishes are called zakuski. Beet soup (borscht) might come next. Meat or fish with potatoes may follow, with lots of hearty bread. Dessert pancakes called blini are filled with jam or cream. Black tea and kvas, which is made with malt, are favourite drinks.

  Did you know?
Kazakh apples are famous. The city of Almaty in the southeast is named for the local orchards. The name means "father of apples."
"Come to my dastarkhan" is an invitation to a table spread with a Kazakh feast. Welcoming guests warmly and making them comfortable is very important to Kazakhstanis. People love to visit and share good food, especially in the winter, when they may dine with friends and relatives almost every night of the week.

800 g mutton
4 onions
6 tbsp vinegar
6-7 tomatoes
5-6 cucumbers


Cut mutton in 5-6 large pieces. Chop onion into rings. Marinate mutton and onion in vinegar and keep cold for 3-4 hours. Broil the meat over hot charcoals. Serve with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.