The Kara Kum as kitchen: ancient recipes of desert and shepherds

The Kara Kum as kitchen: ancient recipes of desert and shepherds

Modern Turkmen nationals are keenly interested the traditions to which their ancestors adhered and carefully preserved. Jewellery, carpets, Akhalteke racers, ethnic cuisine… Especially among dishes of Turkmen distinguish those that are prepared on hot sand and for which no ware or home appliances is necessary.

It is a great luck to become witness of this mystery – not every tourist is lucky to get to learn of it. But if you are lucky, then impressions will remain for all your life. And the aroma of this food is such dense and tasty that one desires to preserve and take it away with oneself.

To join the national kitchen is possible in a small village of Bokurdak that is an hour of driving from Ashgabat. Local tour operators with pleasure will take quickly all interested persons there. And, by the way, their number is quite big.

On the way one can see habitual “planted trees and shrubs”, landscapes are replaced with red -yellow – the car drives to the majestic sand of the Kara Kum. It is in the deserts where the destination is located.

If you are lucky, it is possible to get to a Turkmen weeding in which any visitor, even unexpected, is most desired and welcomed one. After all, it is customary with Turkmen? The more visitors in the wedding, the more happiness is in the house of the young couples. And without songs and dances under the dashing motive alternating with a ring of bells –amulets on a bridal dress one cannot manage.

The most stylish one is to stay in a Turkmen yurta, dwelling of shepherds and feel one’s attachment to your roots. It has all conveniences for good rest – soft pillows, traditional bright carpets which are hung on walls and all floors are covered. A curtsey towards modernity is air conditioner. And if a visitor has got tired from trip and wishes to take a nap, for it on the walls there are a great number of small korpenche, mattresses.

But one may hardly want to miss the process of preparation of surprising dishes in sand. So, of course, here it is not for tourists to take a nap. Though in hot midday in desert one can hardly engage himself in something else than it.

Now it is about dishes. In Bokurdak visitors are treated to gomme, a traditional Turkmen pie with meat stuffing. For its preparation the meat which is wrapped up by dough, is buried in ashes and heated sand for 8 hours.

It seems, it will be impossible to eat it? You are mistaken. Dough gets browned and sand rolls down from it completely. And meat under such “cover” turns out surprisingly soft and juicy. After dishes are ready and cleared, the gomme in an especially way is cut so that all juice has not flowed out, and everyone could take pleasure in its surprising taste.

Not less surprises brings the preparation of the dish under the name tamdyrlama – a lamb baked, as appears from the name, in the tamdyr. Thanks to that heat envelops meat, the broth which is taken from it, turns out especially rich. In order all steam remains inside, the tamdyr from above is covered closely with a cauldron and its cracks are covered with clay and it is kept for not less than an hour.

These culinary masterpieces are supplemented with traditional Turkmen tea prepared on fire in special metal jugs «tungche». Thanking to their special form with a narrow neck tea turns out fragrant and strong. One can also drink fresh chal made of camel milk after the meal, it freshens you very well under the midday sun.

Turkmen culinary traditions are the richest layer of national culture and way of national life. And to learn them today means to become closer to ancestors, to understand their special philosophy, life which today would name “ergonomic” and “harmless”.

Maya ESENOVA