How to cook Beshbarmak – the Kazakhstan national dish (+VIDEO)

Beshbarmak - header

Beshbarmak (Kyrgyz: бешбармак, Kazakh: беcбармақ) is a dish originating from the nomadic Turkic people of Central Asia and is considered the national dish of Kazakhstan and to a lesser extent Kyrgyzstan. The meal consists of boiled horse or mutton (also sometimes beef) meat, served with boiled pastry noodles, boiled potatoes and carrots and topped with an onion and broth sauce called ‘sorpa‘.

In Kazakhstan, it is often served in traditional Kazakh kese bowls.

The term beshbarmak means ‘five fingers’ and is so called due to the method of consumption, namely without cutlery and using the hands alone.


The serving ritual

Traditionally, the serving of beshbarmak is steeped in ritual with different sections of the meat proportioned to people depending on their gender, age and rank in the social structure. The sheep’s head would be served to the most honoured guest, usually the most elderly of the family. The responsibility to cut the meat from the head would fall on this person who would then in turn offer it the other guests at the table.

The younger adults would receive the shoulder and leg bones whilst the boys would be entitled to the ears, symbolising the need to be careful, and the girls get the palate as a reminder to be diligent. The most respected guest feast upon the gammon and shank. Young brides claims the brisket while older married ladies get the neck bones. Children are allowed the heart and kidneys as it is believed to help them mature but not the brain as it is thought it would make them weak willed. Finally, knuckle is never served to young girls because Kazakhs believe it will cause her to grow up as a spinster.

Beshbarmak with sheep's head

Traditional village beshbarmak. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons .

Ingredients for Beshbarmak

(Ingredients for 3 people)
– 500-800 g meat (lamb/horse/beef) with bones
– salt
– flour
– 1 egg
– 3 potatoes
– 2 onions
– 1 carrot
– 3 cloves of garlic (optional)
– frying oil

Making beshbarmak with Vano, Almaty, Kazakhstan

How to cook Beshbarmak

1) Boil water in a large pot. After it starts boiling, put the meat inside and slowly boil, removing the sediment from the surface. Leave boiling on a low heat for 1,5h.
2) In the meantime whisk the egg. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt in 1/2 glass of warm water. Add it to the egg, then add 2 glasses of flour and mix it together.
3) When the dough is ready, roll it until it’s very thin.
4) Using a sharp knife cut 4-6 cm thick strips in the dough, then cut across them to create diamond shapes.
5) Let the dough dry for a bit. You can also put it in the oven for 20 min.
6) After the dough has dried for a bit, roll it even thinner.
7) If some of the water from your broth has evaporated,you can add more water, bring it back to the boil and remove the sediment again.
8) After 1,5h of boiling the broth, add 3 teaspoons of salt, 2 halves of an onion, 2 halves of a carrot, 3 whole potatoes, 2 whole cloves of garlic and some black pepper to taste. Then keep boiling the broth for 1 more hour.
9) When the broth is nearly ready, chop onion and garlic, then fry them on a pan.
10) Put the fried onion and garlic into a small saucepan, add 1 glass of the broth and bring it to the boil on low heat.
11) Take the meat out and cut it into small pieces, separating it from the bone.
12) Take out all the vegetables from the broth
13) After everything is out of the broth, boil your diamond pasta pieces inside.
14) Meanwhile cut the vegetables into big chunks.
15) Add some black pepper to your onion and garlic in the small saucepan.
16) To serve, put the vegetable chunks round the edge of a large platter.
17) When the pasta is soft, scoop up the sediment for the last time, then take out the pasta and place it in the middle of the platter.
18) Place the meat on top of the pasta, then pour the soup with onion from the little saucepan on top
19) Pour the broth into bowls to accompany your meal. Eat beshbarmak with your hands by wrapping meat pieces into the pasta sheets.

How to make Kazakh Beshbarmak

written by: Jon and Ania

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