In the Turkmen culture of each region, there are amazing wedding traditions that do not do without a plentiful treat – chelpek (thin cakes), chapady (fried dough), pishme (diamond-shaped flour treat), bogursak (patterned fried dough), ishlekli (large meat pies). And in the northern region of Turkmenistan, any event begins with the preparation of the superfine tortillas (chelpek) or sweet gatlama.
There is a popular legend about the origin of these treats:
“Once upon a time there were two friends – a money-bag and a hillbilly. One day they decided to find out whose wife cooks better? A woman from a poor family gathered some flour and butter and made thin tortillas. But the rich man’s wife generously kneaded the dough and concocted large puff cakes, sprinkled with sugar. Surprisingly, everyone who tasted them liked both sweet products. One was named “chelpek” and the other “gatlama”. Since then, they have been the main treats of any Turkmen festivity.”
A resident of Dashoguz, a pensioner Yegenkhan-daiza told about the preparation of the “gatlama” treat,
“All the rites of matchmaking and weddings are not complete without this treat. Relatives of the groom must come to the bride’s house with goodies, treats, gatlama and gifts. Therefore, the preparation of puff pastry is entrusted to the most respected and revered masters of cooking.”
Preparation of gatlama is a time-consuming collective work that requires skill and dexterity. One person can’t manage it. Flour, milk, eggs, vegetable oil or animal fat are required for cooking puff cakes.
“The dough is rolled out slice up, oiled, and given a round shape. Slightly pressing the crumb, bend the edges and create wavy patterns – this is a kind of art. The number of layers in each gatlama should be at least five, and if it is intended for matchmaking, then at least nine,” says Yegenkhan.
Gatlama is fried in oil on medium heat. The finished delicacy is sprinkled with sugar on top. According to some sources, gatlama itself represents the surface of the earth, its layers – the layers of the earth, and the sugar on the surface – a sweet and beautiful life. Matchmakers are sent ten sweet puff cakes, nine of which they keep and the tenth one return back to the groom’s side. This is done in order to establish good-neighborly, friendly relations between families.
The belief, associated with the number 9, reads, “Dokuzy düzüw bolsun” (“So that everything would be all right”). Nine layers and the same number of gatlama cakes mean best wishes for the young marrieds.
Traditionally, those who prepared gatlama puff cakes, the hosts of the celebration give gifts. Then they treat musters, and also distribute this muffin with the wishes of the same merry and beautiful wedding.