Horses for main courses and other tales of Kazakh culture


  • For Kazakh’s horse meat is something like lamb is for us at home. A traditional meat that is a little special (because it’s more expensive than beef or chicken) but still eaten fairly often. We sampled some in a dish called Five Fingers (picture above) which is made of a kind of horse sausage, beef, fresh pasta and potato. The meat is boiled and then the carbs are cooked in stock. It’s good.
  • Under the Soviets religion was discouraged and therefore so was Christmas, and Santa. The Kazakh’s transposed their key traditions to New Year’s and now it is “Grandfather Frost” who “walks in from the North” to deliver presents to over excited kiddies. I like to think an alternative explanation is that Santa has just outsourced his CIS responsibilities.
  • (Incidentally, do you know how silly you sound explaining the Easter Bunny to someone who has never heard of it? “Okay, so, there’s this giant rabbit…“)
  • Kazakhstan is a predominantly Muslim country, but it’s Islam-lite. Few people are practice in the sense of going to Friday prayers or even praying at all and you rarely see headscarves worn in the street. But cultural elements of Islam, like not eating pork, endure.
  • Marriage is still an important institution. There’s a sense that young women will jump at the chance to get married because there are more women than men so they’re ‘competing’ for husbands. There are also generally expectations/preferences that husbands will be older than wives and that people will marry within their ethnic group. But these norms are softening, as are traditional gender roles within marriage.
  • When you order a beer here it arrives with a straw to drink it through.

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