Like any other, Turkmen cuisine largely reflects the history and life of the people. It is similar to other Asian cuisines, but it has its own characteristics.
In addition, depending on the place of residence of the Turkmens themselves, the same dish differs in ingredients and cooking methods. For example, in the Caspian regions, meat in the traditional “ash” pilaf is often replaced by fish.
Features of the national Turkmen cuisine
The food of the Turkmen is notable for its high satiety and ease of preparation. In addition, spices are used to give the dish a unique taste and aroma – turmeric, garlic, mint. Many recipes include only meat, but cooked in different ways.
Most of the traditions of the Turkmen people have survived to this day and are reflected in the methods of cooking, ingredients, and serving.
So, for serving meat and cereals, wooden bowls are used, and for liquid – enameled ones. For cooking, a gazan (cauldron) is most often used – a cast-iron cauldron of a special shape.
The tradition of drinking a lot of tea has been preserved. Only in the morning do the Turkmens drink about 1 liter. Each tea drinker is entitled to a separate teapot and bowl.
The nomadic past of the Turkmen people influenced the way of cooking. The inability to stay in one place all the time forced the Turkmen to look for new methods of preparing meat that could last for a long time.
In addition, the arid climate and wide desert spaces with sparse vegetation severely limited the amount of vegetables, herbs and fruits in the diet of the Turkmen. Most of these products have only come into use in the last century.
For people who lived near the Caspian Sea, fish became the main ingredient in most recipes. And until now, when cooking, housewives try to use the freshest, and even better – just caught fish.
Typical foods and cooking methods
The Turkmen people have preserved the traditions of their ancestors. The range of products and methods of cooking have remained virtually unchanged. In addition, it is still believed that only men should make meat and pilaf.
Most often, the Turkmen use sheep and camel milk. It is drunk neat or fermented for the manufacture of various products. Beat butter from it, prepare cottage cheese, yogurt.
Also, the Turkmen make cheeses – “herd” from cow’s milk, “peynir” – from sheep and goat. And from the camel milk sour under the sun they prepare the drink “chal”.
Lamb, young camel meat, chicken and wild poultry are consumed in the greatest quantities. Meat soups are also common, easy to prepare and allowing you to stay full for a long time.
The most popular soups are:
- “Chorba” – meat broth, most often from lamb. Can be eaten neat or used as a base for a soup.
- Gainatma is traditionally cooked from lamb, peas and tomatoes, but modern recipes allow adding potatoes.
- Unash is a hearty soup that consists of meat broth, homemade noodles and beans.
- “Mastava” – “liquid pilaf”, one of the most popular dishes among the Turkmens. This soup can only be made from rice and vegetables, but more and more often it is made with lamb broth.
Meat is cooked in a variety of ways to keep it consumed for as long as possible, even in hot climates. For example, the Turkmens dry meat under the sun on a high pole.
A known method is when the stomach of a ram or goat is filled with pieces of meat with spices and during the day they are buried in hot sand. At night, when the temperature drops, the stomach is taken out and suspended on a high pole.
This is repeated until it is completely dry and the pieces of meat acquire a pleasant taste and smell. In addition, the meat cooked in this way does not spoil for a long time.
Often the Turkmen simply cut the meat into small pieces and then fry it in a cauldron. Rice or other cereals are added to this dish or served neat. Shish kebab and kebab are prepared from meat, frying them over coals.
The proximity of the Caspian Sea explains the large number of fish dishes in the diet of the Turkmen. It is the abundance of fish that distinguishes their cuisine from other Asian ones. The most popular varieties are beluga, herring, sea and river pike perch, carp. The Caspian sturgeon is especially prized.
The fish is fried on a spit or in boiling oil, or stewed in pots, adding rice and other ingredients to the dish. Also, various soups, traditional pilaf and barbecue are prepared from it.
Vegetables and fruits
The arid climate makes it impossible to grow many types of vegetables and fruits. The Turkmens constantly consume only carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes and radishes. Onions are especially prized here – they are added to dishes or consumed raw.
But the Turkmen people compensate for the scarcity of vegetables with herbs – sorrel, spinach, wild parsley, etc.
Turkmens love apricots and the famous watermelons and melons, which are not afraid of the local climate and are famous throughout the world for their juicy honey taste.
In the preparation of dishes, hostesses use various seasonings typical of many Asian cuisines. The most common are red and black peppers, wild parsley, saffron, garlic, and onions.
In addition, to give the dish a special aroma and taste, Turkmen use specific fats and oils: fat tail fat, sesame oil, camel milk oil. They add additional satiety to food. They are used in meat, fish, flour dishes.
Traditional dishes of Turkmenistan
Like other Asian peoples, the Turkmen value tradition. Although the list of ingredients and recipes for many dishes has not changed over the centuries, they can be easily prepared in today’s environment.
Khanum with tomatoes
This is a popular dish common to most eastern peoples. It is rolls stuffed with tomatoes, bell peppers and onions.
Vegetables are finely chopped, mixed with suitable spices (black and red pepper), spread on rolled dough, forming rolls. The resulting products are baked in a double boiler for about an hour. When serving, it is recommended to sprinkle the baked goods with pepper oil.
Pilaf is traditional – a favorite and widespread dish among many Asian peoples. It is customary to cook it in a cauldron, it is believed that this is how it turns out to be the most delicious and satisfying.
The meat, most often game, is cut into small pieces and fried in oil. Moreover, in areas close to the Caspian Sea, pilaf is cooked with fish. Onions, carrots or uyuk are added to fried meat. Rice is cooked separately, then mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Seasonings include black pepper, garlic and turmeric.
Pilaf is served with pomegranate and plum sauce. It is eaten with bare hands, without the use of cutlery.
Another popular Asian dish, especially loved by the Turkmens. To prepare this dish, beef liver is used, which is boiled and then passed through a meat grinder.
Medium tomatoes are carefully cored and filled with minced meat, onions and carrots. The resulting blanks with the filling are stewed until cooked for 20-30 minutes.
Sour cream with herbs is served as a sauce for the dish.
Popular sweets and desserts
Basically, Turkmens consume traditional sweets of Asian peoples. They are made from sugar or fruit juice, nuts and flour. A special place is occupied by halva, which is made from ground sesame seeds, and sherbet.
Turkmen love bekmes – “fruit honey”, a syrup made from fruit juice, prepared without added sugar. Most often it is prepared from watermelon or grape juice.
Traditional sweetness is bakhlava (or baklava) – a product made of puff pastry and nuts in syrup.
In addition, the Turkmen have long been preparing the alarm – special sugar crystals grown on threads. Previously, nomads replaced sugar with them or used them as candy. Turkmens believe in the medicinal properties of the alarm.
In addition, baked goods from sweet dough, cookies, crumpets are often prepared. One example is pishame biscuits that are fried in oil. This dish is definitely served on various holidays, especially at weddings.
Like other peoples of Asia, the Turkmen often drink a lot of black and green tea. The drink can be brewed from camel thorns or pieces of meat can be added. In winter, tea is brewed in milk with the addition of butter and fat, making it satisfying and can replace soup.
Turkmenistan is also known for wines of its own production, among them: “Dashgala”, “Yasman-Salyk”, “Kopetdag”. The most popular spirits are the local President brandy and Serdar vodka.
Since 1967 in the south-west of the country, mineral water “Berzengi”, famous for its medicinal properties, has been produced. A sanatorium of the same name is open next to the well.
Like any other, the Turkmen cuisine reflects the entire long and difficult history of the people. Nomadism, climate and desert terrain forced people to look for new ways of cooking and create unique recipes.
You can only love the dishes of this cuisine by trying them and evaluating them yourself.