General Diet/Summary:

The traditional Kazakh diet is heavily meat based. Vegetable intake, especially greens, is often deficient. The typical diet is strongly influenced by that of the early Kazakh nomads, which is why a high emphasis is placed on long-term preservation of food. Fermented dairy products, pickled vegetables, and salted or dried meat are staples of the diet. Noodles, unleavened bread, and many milk products are also eaten on a daily basis. The Kazakh national dish is called beshbarmak, known as “five fingers” because it is traditionally eaten with your hands, is made of lamb or mutton, noodles, and onions. Horse meat is very popular, often served in large uncut pieces which have been boiled. Other popular foods reflect the presence of various ethnic groups that have left their mark on Kazakh culture and include Uzbek plov (fried rice and meat), Russian pelmeny (meat pie), and Uighur manty (dumplings filled with ground meat, onion, pumpkin). Korean dishes are common, particularly salads, due to the influence of Korean immigrants. Tea is served several times a day, while fermented mare’s and camel’s milks are served on special occasions. Each town has an open air food market (similar to farmers’ markets in the United States) that offer seasonal fruits, vegetables, and spices as well as fresh meats and dairy.

Nutrition Facts:

Kazakhstan consists of many diverse habitats and seasons can be extreme, which may affect diet quality and nutritional status. While overweight and cardiovascular risk factors are less prevalent in children living in Kazakhstan than those living in Western countries, preventive measures are needed to contain the incidence of overweight that could accompany the modernization of Kazakhstan in the coming years.

Possible Deficiencies

Children living in orphanages/baby houses may have inadequate intake of meat and meat products, milk, fruits, and vegetables. Food provided at a baby house may only include porridge, thin soup, or kefir so total calories and nutrients often don’t meet needs for growth and development. Such a limited and plain pre-adoption diet means that children adopted from Kazakhstan may display sensory defensiveness when exposed to new textures and types of foods.

One study suggests that gender discrimination in food allocation, meaning that boys may preferentially receive more food than girls during times of economic hardship, may result in differences in growth and development. However, not much research has been done in this area. Other nutritional issues children in Kazakhstan may be affected by include intestinal parasites, hereditary disorders, and exposure to environmental pollutants (lead, pesticides, heavy metals).

» See more about common nutrient deficiencies here.

Common Foods:

Meal Patterns:

The people of Kazakhstan are very hospitable and enjoy hosting guests for dinner. If invited to someone’s house for dinner, it is polite to bring something for the host such as pastries. Many customs, including the offering of tea and refreshments, are followed to honor guests. In rural settings, diners may sit on the floor. Dining style is continental with the fork held in the left hand and knife in the right hand, or food is eaten with just the right hand. Meals are leisurely social events. Traditionally, once the adults have eaten the children are allowed to eat the leftovers.

A unique custom is the dastarkhan, a feast for special occasions that includes many appetizers (pastries, fruits, nuts), sorpa (a rich broth) and soups, cold salads, and dairy products. The feast features an entire animal, usually a sheep, different parts of which symbolize the traits desired by those eating them. For example, the head is given to the most honored guest and children may receive an ear so that they will listen and obey.

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Kazakh Rice

  • 1½ cups rice

  • ⅓ cup slivered almonds

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • ½ cup pitted dates, chopped

  • ⅓ cup pitted prunes, chopped

  • 3 dried apricots, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 cup lamb, cooked, finely ground

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Mix the lamb, almonds, fruits, onion, salt, and garlic in a large bowl. Cook the rice until almost done. Add the oil to the rice as it cooks. Add the lamb mixture to the rice and finish cooking until all water is absorbed.

Serves 8

Source: Chef Pyotr Numurdaleshev, Kazakh Aul Restaurant, Almaty, Kazakhstan (http://www.recipesource.com/fgv/rice/04/rec0406.html)


Pumpkin Samsa

Samsa can be sweet or savory and can be stuffed with various meats, vegetables, and/or fruits. They are a fun food that can be shaped in many different ways.

  • ½ can pumpkin purée

  • 4-6 medium baking potatoes, peeled, coarsely chopped, and boiled

  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped and sautéed in butter or oil

  • ¼ cup golden raisins

  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Your choice of savory spices (garlic, ginger, chili, cumin, coriander, cilantro)

  • 1-2 boxes puff pastry, defrosted (don’t let pastry get too warm or it will be very sticky)

  • butter or oil

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté boiled potatoes in a a little butter or oil for 5-10 minutes. Remove and mix in canned pumpkin. Add onions, raisins, walnuts, and spices. Mix well. Unwrap and unfold the puff pastry dough. Cut puff pastry into 9 squares.

Place a heaping tablespoon of mixture into the center of puff pastry square. Lightly wet the edges of the dough with water. Bring the corners of the dough to the center and pinch closed. Brush the top of the bundle with egg yolk. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve with vinegar or soy sauce.

Source: http://mymommymakesit.blogspot.com/2010/05/pumpkin-samsa-recipe-and-felt-food.html


Carrot and Radish Salad

  • 2-4 cups of grated or julienned carrots

  • 1-2 bunches of grated or julienned radishes

  • 1/8 cup olive oil

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon ground star anise

  • salt to taste

Mix everything together and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Source: http://mymommymakesit.blogspot.com/2011/03/traditional-nauryz-feast-cultural.html.


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