This meal is brought to you from Kazakhstan! Besides knowing that the controversial film Borat was about a character from Kazakhstan and that it is located geographically next to Russia, I knew very little about this country. After doing some research I rounded up some interesting facts:
- Kazakhstan became its own country on December 10, 1991.
- Over 100 different nationalities make up the population of Kazakhstan – this totally transfers over to the cuisine.
- It has a population of over 18 million
- There are three different “New Years” that are celebrated in Kazakhstan – January 1, January 14, and March 22.
- It is the largest landlocked country! It is bordered by is bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and the landlocked Caspian Sea.
- It is the ninth largest country in the world!
- It is believed that this is the first place where horses were domesticated and rode on.
- Not surprising after fact 4, but Kazakhstan also has more horses than women.
- We can thank this country for apples – it is were they were first cultivated!
- Russian is the official language.
This Kazakhstan meal was so much fun to make – it was definitely a time consuming meal but it was well worth it. While researching the various foods of Kazakhstan I did find that many were meat heavy, however, I think this may have led to one my favorite rice dishes – a jeweled vegetarian rice plov– it is definitely the most beautiful rice dish I have ever made. Traditional plov usually contains meat, lamb being a popular choice and most don’t have such a medley of dried fruits but I can’t imagine this dish without them!
The other vegetarian dish that I made were vegetarian manti. Manti are like Kazakhstan steamed dumplings, again usually stuffed with a meat filling but I opted for a mushroom kale filling. They were so good! I served them with a tomato and yogurt sauce and that really took them to another level. I was surprised by how such simple ingredients came together to make such a tasty meal!
The third component of this meal was an impressive feat – Beshbarmak! This is a traditional meal that kept coming up in all of our research and the name of it directly translates to “Five Fingers.” The dish is composed of meat, potatoes, veggies, homemade pasta, and broth. The “five fingers” translation originally made me feel some kind of way, but I read that it got its name because it was traditionally eaten with one’s hands and the broth component was served on the side like a soup- which now makes the name make so much more sense. However, many in Kazakhstan now eat the meat, veggies, pasta with the broth so it is no longer eating with one’s hands.
The Beshbarmak recipe was followed as written out in the recipe linked above. It was definitely a dish that required lots of different skills and time to make but nonetheless it was a cooking experiment! Although I did not try this dish, it was fun making the dough and I loved how colorful the dish turned out.
Vegetarian Rice Plov
- 2 cups of basmati rice, rinsed
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 2 inch knob of fresh ginger, finely diced
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup diced prunes
- 1/4 cup cranberries
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- Approx 3 – 4 cups of water
- 2 tbsp oil (avocado, olive or coconut oil)
- sliced almonds for garnish
- cilantro for garnish
- Rinse your basmati rice well and let soak for at least 30 minutes
- Prep your veggies -finely chop your onion, peel and grate/chop the ginger, and shred the carrots.
- Chop your dried fruits so they are all around the same size – this may only be necessary for prunes and raisins if they are large.
- In a large pan (pick one with a lid) heat up your oil and then add onions. Let them cook for a few minutes.
- Add ginger, ground coriander, black pepper, turmeric, shredded carrots and 1 tsp of salt to cooked onions. Saute for 5 minutes until carrots soften.
- Add your dried fruit to the pan and cover with just enough water to cover the fruit/carrot mix. Let cook for 5 minutes and then add 2 tsp of salt and mix well.
- While the fruit softens, drain the rice and rinse through one last time.
- Add the rice to the pan. DO NOT MIX!!!
- Make 5 – 6 holes/wells in the rice. This can be done with the end of a wooden spoon. Add in 1 tbsp of oil and water to cover the rice. You’ll want to try to add the water and oil in the holes you have created. You will want the water to fully cover the rice and rest 1 – 1 1/2 inches above the rice.
- Cover the pan – if you have a clear lid that will work best. Turn the heat to med-low and let cook for 35-40 minutes. If you are unsure if you added the right amount of water check around 25 minutes. If the rice looks like it has soaked up all the water add about 1/2 cup of more water.
- After 40 minutes check to see if the rice is done. It should be light and fluffy. If it is still under-cooked – cook for 5-10 more minutes. After the rice is done cooking let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes with the lid on.
- This next step is optional but HIGHLY recommend it- you’ll transform this dish from a tasty side to a showstopper.
- Grab a flat serving dish that is larger than your pan. You will flip your rice pan onto the serving dish, like you would flip a cake.
- Cover your rice pan with your serving dish.
- Holding the serving dish tightly over the rice pan, quickly flip the pan over.
- Place your serving dish on the counter/table with the pan over it.
- Gently tap on top of the rice pan to loosen up the rice.
- Lift your pan and you should have your beautiful plov – the dried fruits and carrots should be on top.
- Garnish with almonds and cilantro!
Recipe adapted from here.
I followed this recipe when I was making the manti. I added kale and garlic powder to my filling just to make it a little more robust. The recipe also calls for oven roasting the mushrooms but I just sauteed them in my pan they turned out great. I also added some paprika to my finished tomato sauce and dish. While grocery shopping I could not find specific dumpling wrapper but so I used wonton wrappers and they turned out great steamed!