Timur in repose
Post by Eugene Moon; photos by Sandra Powers
When I returned to the hotel, it was nearly time for brunch. The food they served was mostly traditional Kazakh food, like pilov (the name of the same rice I had yesterday), bishpermak, shumbat and a type of beef and noodle soup served only during Nauryz. The most intriguing food items are kumys and shumbat. They are both milk-based drinks that came from horse and camel. Shumbat has a cheesy taste and some bits of curd. Kumys has more layers of flavor. After drinking the thin liquid, the aftertaste just charged at me. Mild and sour, kumys resembles a liquid version of qurt. The taste of it lingered and then turned slightly alcoholic at the end. In fact, kumys is fermented horse milk with a 2-3% alcohol content. I enjoyed the drink, served in small bowls holding between ½ - 1 cup. After drinking only two cups, I started to feel slightly dizzy. Timur's dad, Viktor, who joined us, cannot drink due to driving safety concerns. Bishpermak, a kind of Kazakh pasta, consists of sheets of folded pasta (like lasagna), onions, and horse meat---really delicious. Even though it was oily, I would have eaten more of it if my stomach were not full. There was so much good food there, especially non-Kazakh food, like sushi, french fries, and chocolate ice cream.
Speaking of sushi, a waitress thought I was Japanese after I said “thank you” to her in a mixture of Kazakh and Russian and she responded in Japanese. She was the first Kazakh who thought I was Japanese, while everyone else knew I was Korean. There are a lot of Koreans in Kazakhstan. They did not choose to live there but were deported in the 1930s when Stalin labeled them as spies for Japan. Many Koreans living within the Russian borders of Manchuria were deported and most seem to have lost any knowledge of the Korean language (Hangul), and speak Russian instead. Here, they are called Koryo Saram, while we Koreans call them Goryuh-In. However, Koreans I’m encountering during my stay here can speak Korean; they were likely visitors rather than inhabitants of Kazakhstan, as I see them in tourist places and hotels.