Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kyrgyz Lagman Recipe

For the last cooking class, our teacher was going to help us make lagman (лагман) from scratch, noodles and all. Honestly, I had been waiting for this and fearing it all at the same time. Making homemade noodles is no joke, and as I quickly learned, perhaps more practice is necessary for me. I learned some more humility during this class. 
What is lagman? Lagman is this amazingly hearty stew with meat, vegetables, noodles (лапша) and a flavorful, spicy broth. Lagman is traditionally a Uyghur or Dungan dish. These Muslim minorities migrated from northern China to Kyrgyzstan and other parts of Central Asia. Now, lagman can been seen in Central Asia, China, and even Russia. 

So if you have a couple of hours and some friends to help, I totally recommend making some lagman.

8 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of water water
2-3 eggs

1 lb of beef or lamb (we used beef)
3 cups of broth
1 onion
1 green radish
3 carrots
2 red bell peppers (In Kyrgyzstan, they are pickled with salt, but fresh is fine as well.)
1/4 cup of tomato paste
Head of garlic, minced
Vegetable or Sunflower seed oil
Chopped parsley for garnish

For the noodles
1. In a bowl, mix the flour, water and eggs together. 
2. Knead the dough until it is pliable (this will help later on). Then let it sit for 30 minutes or so.
3. Divide the dough into thick strands (see picture below). It is a good idea to oil your hands while working with the dough. Then cover the pieces in oil and let them rest for 10-15 minutes. 
4.  Begin to roll the dough with your palms against the table and stretch the dough. As the noodles get longer hit them against the table, it will help even out the dough. Don't for get to keep the noodles oiled as well.  If a strand is not stretching well, let it rest for a while.  (Don't worry if your noodles don't look nice! I questioned all my cooking abilities while doing this. I've been told it just takes practice)
5. Fold the noodles as they become longer and thinner.
6. In a pot of boil water, cook the noodles  for 5 minutes. Then rinse them in cold water and cover with oil. 
7. When serving, place the pasta first in your serving bowls. 


For the stew
1. In the meantime, slice onion (in "half moons"), carrots (matchstick), radish (matchstick), and meat (cubed).
2. First, heat up oil in a large pot. Add the meat, garlic, and onions. Cook until meat is slightly browned.
3.  Then add broth, carrots, radish, peppers, and tomato paste.
4. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes until carrots and radishes are cooked through.

For plating
Place the noodles in the bowl first, followed by the stew and parsley. If you like your lagman spicy, you can make a paste out of chili powder, red pepper, garlic, and oil to add on top. Enjoy!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cafe Review: Sierra Coffee KG

Sierra Coffee KG
Manas, by the Russian Embassy

Snuggled in between two rather imposing buildings, Sierra Coffee offers customers comforting cups of Western coffee concoctions and familiar food. 

If you are looking for lattes, frappes, or a simple cup of coffee, you will not be disappointed purchasing it here. In addition to freshly ground coffee, the menu includes breakfast burritos, pancakes and waffles (with real maple syrup!), and a slew of sandwiches. 

There are many cafes in Bishkek, but in my opinion Sierra has the most relaxed atmosphere. As you walk in, you will see groups of dark wooden tables and chairs and sofas in a warm interior. Near the front window, there is a bar seating-area, which is perfect for people watching. To the left, there is a smoking room for smokers. There's a communal library near the sofas and Krygyz handicrafts line the other walls.  

Before going, I had read other reviews that the staff were not customer friendly; however, after visiting Sierra several times, I can say the rumors are not true. All of the staff speak Russian, Krygyz, and even English. In the short time that I have been here, I have become a regular, and the waiters and waitresses know my name and normal order, just like at any other Western cafe.   

The feeling of community does not end with the staff, most of the customers know each other at Sierra because this cafe is basically Bishkek's expat hub. You'll never know who you'll meet when you sit down. I've met people ranging from backpackers, embassy and IGO workers, young local professionals, local university students, to ESL teachers. If you are looking for any information about Bishkek or the surrounding area, stop here first. 

The only negative aspects that I have experienced so far are not enough seating (especially in the mornings on the weekend), prices are rather expensive in comparison to other places and sometimes the cafe is understaffed, but overall, Sierra has been an amazing source of comfort as I transition to life in Bishkek. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kyrgyz Plov Recipe

This week I started taking cooking. Our first lesson was Kyrgyz Plov.

1lbs. 2 ounces beef (мясо)- cut into quarter size pieces
3 cups of rice (рис)- rinsed and sitting in water as you prepare the other ingredients (at least half an hour)
2-3 onions (лук)- cut in half and then cut into slivers (half-moons)
4 carrots (морковь)- julienned, about an inch long
1 1/5 cups of vegetable oil (масло)
1 head of garlic (чеснок)- peeled
1 bullion cube
1/2 cup of parsley (петрушка), chopped
Plov spice mix, red pepper, black pepper, and salt about 2-3 tablespoons of each

1. Prepare ingredients as stated in the ingredients list.
2. Pour vegetable oil in a large pot ( cast iron pot does well for this) over medium-high heat. Let oil get hot (you should hear crackling) and then place the onions in the pot.
3. When onions turn golden, add carrots on top of them. The place the шапка, or lid, on the pot for five minutes.
4. Add meat, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and plov spice (this is a mixture of cumin, garlic powder, coriander, carraway seeds, chili, paprika you buy in the store or markets here). Stir until meat looks brown.
5. Add water, enough to barely cover you ingredients in the pot. Add bullion cube. Let the bullion cube dissolve and take time to taste your sauce. This is the time to add anymore salt.
6. When the water has come to a boil, add your rice (that has been soaking in a separate bowl of water). Cover, and lower the heat so that the water simmers.
7. Preparing the garlic: take off the outer layers of garlic, leaving a bit of the skin on (see picture in previous post). When the water is gone, dig a little hole and bury the head of garlic. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
8. Serve with chopped parsley, green onions and dill as garnish.