Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cooking Day

First I’d like to give a shout out to all the readers of my blog that I don’t know. I know some parents of other PCTs have been reading, and I hope I can give an interesting account of PC life. Also, thanks for the continued comments.

Now onto something fun!

I’ve gotten quite a few questions about the food here in Kazakhstan. For the most part, the food is nothing too exciting. There is the occasional goat head (which I got to eat), but a lot of it is based around noodles or rice. They eat a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers. And there is always cookies and candy sitting out on the table. (If you try to explain this is strange for the US, the response is usually, but what do you eat with you hot tea. Try explaining that you don’t drink copious amounts of hot tea with every meal, and well… you might be there for a while.)

We had another cultural day in our language class. Last time we learned to do laundry. This time we got to pick out a few recipes and cook them ourselves. Most of us don’t get to cook anything at all. I guess I haven’t tried to ask really, but the host mom does all of the cooking. Guys don’t really work much in the kitchen. I will eventually cook something (especially at the end of Ramadan), but until then yesterday was an amazing treat to be standing over a hot stove stirring seasoning into a sauce. I thought I’d post the recipes of what we made in case anyone in the States would like to try out some traditional Kazakh dishes. Or at least common ones.

1. Plof

While technically an Uzbek dish, Plof is big here in Kazakhstan. I’m not too impressed with it, as to me it seems like rice with carrots, meat, and onions. I mean, its good, but its not spectacular. The recipe we used was:

1. Cut up carrots and onions. I’m not really sure the amount. It seemed like a few of each.
2. Cut up chicken.
3. Pour a lot of oil into a pot. This can be modified. But they use a lot of oil. All the time. For everything.
4. Sautee the veggies until they get soft.
5. Add the meat and sautee as well.
6. Add equal parts water and rice.
7. Bring to a boil.
8. Let simmer for fifteen minutes.
9. Turn off simmer and let sit for fifteen minutes.

2. Stuffed peppers

My family hasn’t had stuffed peppers yet, but apparently they are popular with some other PCTs. The recipe was a lot simpler than I expected. If I were to make it though, I would modify it with more seasoning and probably bake instead of boil, but they are all about the boiling here, so maybe there’s a reason for that I just don’t know about.

Pour boiling water over peppers to cook them slightly and soften them.
Cut off the top of the peppers and clean out the inside.
Cut up an onion or two.
Combine onion and ground beef in a bowl with seasoning. We seasoned very little, but I would have seasoned more.
Stuff raw meat and onion mixture into peppers until they are full to the top.
Put peppers in a large pot.
Make sauce by cutting up some onions and carrots.
Sautee onions and carrots in a heckuva a lot of oil. Once again, probably best to be modified, but if you want authentic, you should have at least a centimeter of oil in the pan.
Add about half a cup of tomato paste.
Add some flour to thicken the sauce. Just some sprinkles.
Add water to the mixture to triple the amount of sauce or so.
Pour this sauce over the peppers in the other pot.
Add more water until all of the peppers are completely covered. It helps if the peppers fit snugly against each other so they aren’t floating.
Bring to a boil.
Let cook for 40 minutes.

3. Pizza

We also made pizza. But that’s nothing Kazakh really. Just wanted a taste of home.

4. Kazakh koolaid.

I don’t remember the name in Russian, but it was a fruit-flavored, sugary drink mix. I didn’t get to try this though because I was fasting. My host fam said they would make it some time.

5. A Pie with dried apricots.

Megan and Dasha made a great pie. They made the crust themselves and then filled it with dried apricots. I would have melted the butter some instead of working with a cold slab like they did, but maybe it helped with the dough more by working it all in by hand. We also decided it would have been better with a filling that was not just dried fruit, maybe some sort of jam as well.

If you decide to make these, make sure you eat them with hot tea and small pieces of candy afterwards. If you do so, you’ll enjoy a real Kazakh meal!

I’m going to try to write about the amazing hiking that I did today near Lake Issyk(sp?). Jamie and Dave (who is celebrating his 23rd bday today) hiked up a ride and got some awesome pictures. I’ll try to load them soon, along with some other shots of my daily life here in Central Asia.


Ted said...

Michael, the blog is looking great and damn good stories for us to read. Hope the Russian is coming along. Take care.

mom said...

It was great talking to you Sunday morning. I enjoyed reading the recipes and seeing some of the things you are eating. I know you like tomatoes and you ate alot of rice in college. I will try the recipes. keep up your blog ,I enjoy reading them and I know others do too