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Altai Cuisine: Top 5 National Dishes to Taste when Travelling in Altai
July 26, 2018 12:39

Altai is worthwhile visiting, even if it is only for the sake of tasting the traditional local dishes that can be found nowhere else in the world. The indigenous inhabitants of the Altai Mountains are very hospitable, and their table is always full of treats when guests are expected. Keep reading and you will learn what to eat in Altai to get a better feeling and understanding of the culture and traditions of the Altaians.

Altai cuisine is based on meat and milk. The favorite delicacies in this mountain region are pine nuts and honey. You are going to get the most authentic impressions of Altai if you try traditional local dishes on your visit to the natural park Uch-Enmek or the small village of Chui-Oozy located on the Chuisk Tract, in the famous Artybash Settlement on the shore of Teletskoye Lake and in Belokurikha.

1. Altai Barley Soup – Kocho

For this hearty rich soup with barley groats, the Altaians first boil meat broth of lamb, horse meat or beef on bone. Traditionally, the simple and laconic Altaic cuisine uses hardly any spices or seasonings. Therefore, only salt and a little of dried wild onion is added to the meat broth. Half an hour before meat broth is ready, barley groats or barley is added into mune. If large pieces of meat are cooked, they are served on a platter separately from the soup. It is a custom to sprinkle this rich barley soup with chopped wild onions and garlic and eat it from pialas.



2. Altai Sour Cream – Kaimak

This favourite Altaian type of super rich and thick fermented dairy is a cross between usual sour cream, sweet cottage cheese and butter. Kaimak is prepared from boiled milk, settled for a day in a cool place. Cream along with the formed foam is collected from it. This delicious thick sour cream is added to many dishes in Altai cuisine. One of them is, for example, fresh salads from raw wild garlic (uksum). As for the remaining skimmed milk, it is usually used to make soups or fermented milk called chegen.


3. Altai Blood Sausage – Kan

This unusual sausage is one of the local delicacies. It is prepared from fresh blood of a ram. Before cooking, milk, lamb fat, chopped wild onions, garlic and salt is added to the ram’s blood. All the ingredients are very well stirred, thus making the blood pink. This substance is cooked inside pre-prepared guts, which are thoroughly cleaned and turned inside out.


4. Altai Cheese – Kurut

In the famous mound of the Altaic "Princess of Ukok", excavated by scientists in 1993, they found lots of real treasures, including pieces of cheese that remained intact for many centuries there. It was the famous Altai kurut, which is still made by the local dwellers of the Altai Mountains. The tradition of making such cheese is common among all nomadic and sedentary peoples of Central Asia and has not changed for millennia. Smoked and very hard cheese is made from boiled fermented milk called chegen. It tastes salty and can be stored for an extremely long time.

5. Altai Drinks

In the remote villages of Altai you can always try chegen, which is something between kefir and ayran, but has a very soft taste. Only boiled milk is used for its ripening. A lot of foods and drinks of Altai cuisine are cooked with chegen. One of them is a vague-looking alcoholic drink arachka, which has a pronounced milky flavor and is only 12-18 degrees strong. The arachka is usually served warm and necessarily in beautiful piala bowls.
The Altaians drink a lot of tea and in many different ways. Sometimes, they add milk cream and salt to freshly brewed tea. However, most often they take tea with tulkan. That is the name for fried and crushed grains of barley. Golden looking talcum with melted butter and salt is put into piala bowls and this mix is diluted with freshly brewed tea. It makes an excellent drink for replenishment in your Altai journey!



Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Altai Cuisine Russian Cuisine Altai Regional Cuisines  

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