31 March 2007

The Times of Central Asia

The Times of Central Asia is online now. This was pretty much the only English-language newspaper published regularly and available on the street in Bishkek. The news in it was a little iffy sometimes (especially the reporting on Turkmenistan) but it was a rather interesting read. I'm checking into what's available without charge on the site.

You can also click here to see political cartoons from a couple of cartoonists with the ToCA. Teo has long been one of my favorite people on Flickr with lots of photos of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.

Tofu and Stones

Two handy cooking tips I've learned recently.

1. Frozen tofu is the way to go. Cut firm or extra firm tofu into squares and set on a tray making sure none of the squares are touching each other. Put the tray uncovered in the freezer and leave it in there for a day. When the squares are solidly frozen, take them off a tray and pack them into a freezer bag. Then whenever you want tofu, just take out the amount you need (this is great when I just want to make something for me, like fried tofu dipped in peanut sauce, or tofu in curry sauce).

The longer it is frozen the better. The texture improved greatly with freezing. You can thaw the tofu in the microwave if you're in a rush. The most important thing is to squeeze out the tofu, like a sponge. Then the tofu will be able to soak up lots of flavor from the sauce it's in. Highly recommended, particularly for people who are nervous about tofu or think it's flavorless or slimy.

2. Stoneware is expensive but it cooks things better. Did I mention it's expensive? So instead of buying individual stone pieces, just get yourself a large flat baking stone (like a pizza stone). Set it in the oven when you turn it on to preheat the oven. Then prepare your food in a regular baking dish like you always do, but bake it on the stone. The stone will help the food bake more evenly, but it works with any baking dish and is a much cheaper alternative.

30 March 2007


I finally tried the pitti recipe from Flatbreads and Flavors. It's from the Hunza Valley of Pakistan and is made of just sprouted wheat, dried apricots, and a bit of salt. You just take some sprouted wheat and grind it with some dried apricots and salt, knead it a bit, let it rest some, and then slowly bake it in a rather cool oven. It's chewy and soft and has a good flavor.

The Hunza are the same people of Hunza diet fame. This bread is a perfect example of that diet, even though you're not likely to live longer by eating it.

Bread like this never tastes the same in your kitchen in the US though. Flatbread really is best hot and in Central Asia. Especially in the mountains.

29 March 2007

Minorities in Central Asia

neweurasia is doing another of their regional surveys today on minorities in Central Asia. They've got lots of articles posted all over the neweurasia blogs, but the main portal has an index of everything that's going on. Don't miss it!

28 March 2007

Snow in Spring

Don't you love it when it snows in March? I get tired of it in January and February, but I love it again in March and April and May, if I'm lucky enough to be snowed on then. It always melts quickly and it doesn't get terribly cold and it looks beautiful on the crocuses and blossoms. And it doesn't make the roads icy. It's simply perfect.


We got the quilt frame set up this weekend. I pulled out this Log Cabin quilt and discovered I had quilted more than half of it. What a nice surprise. I have more than one half-quilted quilt sitting around. I never manage to finish them before we have to move again. I've checked out several books on tape and am ready to get this one done. I started piecing this (by hand; if it were done my machine, I never could have sewed it well enough to have posted a picture of it here) before younger son was born. About time to get it finished, no?


So, I made the sumalak. And it tasted pretty good. But it made way too much for our family of four. Here's what I did (except I'm cutting down on the quantities):

Sprout 1/2 pound of wheat till the sprouts are about the length of the wheat. This should take 5-7 days. You can tell it's ready when you squeeze a wheat kernel and milky white stuff comes out.

When the wheat is ready, grind it up. I tried a food processor, but that was a dismal failure, so I switched to a blender and that worked much better. You'll need to add some water to the wheat and grind it in batches.

When you have a mess of wheat bits in a milky-white mess, you're ready to strain it. Squeeze and press the wheat bits to get all the milky stuff out.

When you've strained it, dump the milky stuff into a big pot and add a pound of flour. Stir well, then bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir as often as possible, but you don't have to stand there all the time because that's boring. Lower the heat after is comes to a boil and continue to cook for at least another 30 minutes. It will darken quite a bit till it looks like caramel.

I'm pretty sure I was doing well up to this point. Then some recipes said to add more water and cook some more, or to bake it. I kept on cooking it on the stovetop, but I don't think I should have added more water because it never thickened up much in the fridge (or is it supposed to be rather runny?). Oh well. I'll do better next year. I think I'll try baking it next year too. And invite lots of friends over.

But I now understand why people rave about sumalak/samanu. Who would have thought you could get something so good just from wheat and water?

27 March 2007

Arctic Mirrors

I've just finished Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the Northby Yuri Slezkine. The subtitle is exactly what this book is about- Russia's and the Soviet Union's interactions with the native people of Siberia. This book isn't an overview of the native people of Siberia as some reviews claim, but the book never makes that claim. Slezkine goes through the history of Russian involvement with Siberia from the earliest days of yasak to the end of the Soviet Union, focusing mostly on the Soviet years. He also spends quite a bit of time on Soviet ethnography (or the lack of it, at times).

Overall, an interesting book, particularly if you're interested in Siberia and its native people. Slezkine writes very well and is not at all dense. Recommended.

Nooruz Party

We had a great Nooruz party on Saturday with all the Central Asians we know in Utah and the Americans we know who've been to Central Asia. A friend from Kyrgyzstan is visiting and she even brought Uzgen rice with her to make real Kyrgyz plov.

We managed a pretty good spread (for mostly being a bunch of Americans) with plenty of salads, plov, bread, shashlyk, suzma, and raspberry jam. What a fun day.

I'm trying my hand at sumalak today. I had hoped to make it on Saturday, but our Uzbek friend couldn't make it. Hopefully tomorrow I will have pictures of authentic-looking sumalak. And I really hope it tastes good for all the time it takes.

25 March 2007

Google Reader

Have you noticed the new box on the sidebar? I started using google reader about a month ago and it's been a good thing. It's handy for keeping track of all the blogs I read, especially those that aren't updated much. The only trouble is that I comment a lot less often since I rarely go to the actual blog site anymore (not that I commented a lot before). But I also can put links to posts I enjoy in that handy little box. They usually will be related to Central Asia or food, but they could be about anything.

24 March 2007

The Art of Uzbek Cooking

I bought The Art of Uzbek Cooking by Lynn Visson a few years ago because it was just about the only Central Asian cookbook that you could order on Amazon instead of tracking down some independent publisher. I wasn't all that impressed with it then, though.

But I am now. It's a great little book (although the binding is terrible). There are a lot of recipes packed into a small space and lots of variations on Central Asian basics like plov and manty and shashlyk. This book is a good choice if you want to try your hand at Central Asian cooking.
I was going to blog Melissa's 10 books I can't live without, but I realized there aren't 10 such books. I found out in Kyrgyzstan that instead of wanting to reread any books, I just wanted new books. There are too many books out there waiting to be read to worry about the ones I've already read. I still have favorites, but I can live without them.

Now, if we were talking about 10 books that would have been a tragedy to have never been written, well, that would be a different story. I could come up with books for that list.

23 March 2007

US Language Policy, Or Why I Don't Care If You Don't Learn English

A few people on a rather conservative homeschool message board I read sometimes were up in arms about the US national anthem being sung in Spanish. I don't have a problem with this. I hope that more people are singing the national anthem now because of it. In fact, I get rather annoyed at people who think English should be the One Official Language of the United States. (I find it particularly ironic when they insist on this for Native Americans, but that's not the point here.)

Most adults who move to a country where their native language widely spoken never learn the new language really well. Of course some do, but as a rule, adults rarely learn a new language to a decent level of fluency. This is not their fault; it's simply the way the human brain works. The older you get, the harder it is to learn a new language. This means that a significant number of immigrants will really struggle with learning English (and please don't bring up Israel here; many immigrants do learn Hebrew there, but a significant number do not, especially those who are from Asian and African countries).

This does not mean it's impossible, nor does it mean that it's not worth trying to learn a new language. But what it does mean is that it is unreasonable to expect all immigrants to learn English no matter what. It is really, really hard to learn a foreign language, and few Americans have experienced anything like what an immigrant experiences when they move to America.

I do not support efforts to make English the only official language of the US. We have a multicultural country and a country with many languages. It is not unreasonable to accommodate people who do not speak English fluently. Despite the tired cliche, we really are a nation of immigrants. English will be learned, probably not by the first generation of immigrants, but subsequent generations will.

And can we lay the tired argument to rest that I hear all the time that says "If I moved to another country, I wouldn't expect them to speak English to me"? If you haven't done that, you don't know what you're talking about. I hope you wouldn't expect that, but you also wouldn't magically learn the new language, nor are you likely ever to become fluent in that new language. You will probably always need help, and it really wouldn't be totally unreasonable if it was so overwhelming that you just quit. Really, it wouldn't. And I've met plenty of Americans living overseas who do expect the world to continue on in English.

So cut people a little slack. So what if you go to a store where many employees don't speak English? Either deal with it or shop somewhere else. It's not the end of the world. And being a little supportive will probably go a lot farther than requiring all immigrants to learn English. It is too easy to exclude people in so many ways just because they don't know the right language.

(This assumes that learning English is the goal of all immigrants, and of course it isn't, nor should it be. Language diversity is a good thing in my mind.)

22 March 2007

Nooruz Food

We had a lovely Nooruz. I even made some decent borsak. My recipe for carrot salad had too much soy sauce to taste like the salads I had in Kyrgyzstan, but it was still good. I'll just put in less soy sauce (and probably more garlic) next time. The boys did other things, but since I don't post pictures of them, you just get to see the food. Here's how I made the borsak:

2 cups warm milk
1 egg
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
4-5 cups of flour

Mix everything together until you have a soft dough. Add only enough flour so it's not too sticky. Let it sit for a few hours, then roll it out about 1/2 inch thick (adding more flour if needed) and fry. Deep frying is best, but if you need to fry them in a smaller amount of oil on each side, do that.

21 March 2007

Happy Nooruz!

And happy Spring. Yes, the equinox was technically yesterday, but many countries have set the date to celebrate it for the 21st (although I think it's the 22nd in Kazakhstan). We have a lovely rainy and cool day here.

20 March 2007

Sojourner in the Promised Land

I finally read Jan Shipps' Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons and very much enjoyed it. I read a review of the book several years ago in the paper sometime when I was visiting Utah and put it on my list then. But I pretty much had to be living in Utah to find it at the library.

Anyway, it's not as autobiographical as the title would lead you to believe. Instead it's mostly a collection of papers and essays Shipps has written about various topics regarding Mormonism, from others' perceptions of Mormonism to feminism within Mormonism. She also has a few more personal sections to lead into groups of essays. And some of her personal asides were delightful.

Altogether a recommended read, whether you're Mormon or not.

It's Due

Do you ever check out books with the old due date slips? There aren't many libraries that use these anymore, but one of the libraries we go to does. This slip is from Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. It's heyday was clearly the mid-90s. Only 11 people have checked it out since 1999.

I wonder about all those lonely books sitting on the shelves. I'm apparently the first person to check out Turkestan and the Fate of the Russian Empire and Kyrgyzstan: The Word about Homeland and even Holy War in China- a provocative title. And it looks like Tribal Nation has been ignored till now except by one person in the spring of 2005 who appears to have written a paper on Turkmenistan. It's clear this university does nothing with Central Asia.

Oral Epics of Central Asia had a great due date slip but I forgot to get a picture of it before I returned it this morning. Sad. But The Languages of China has three slips all stacked on each other. I'm glad the librarians were a bit lazy.

The boys also found a few hand-cranked pencil sharpeners there. I was a bit surprised when they didn't know what it was. They've only seen electric ones. I like the old sharpeners. They made such a satisfying grinding sound and there was always a pleasant smell of wood.

(This is actually an up-to-date library; it just has a few relics like these left.)

Little Purple Pansies

18 March 2007


The pussywillows know when spring is here. We'd never go by the pussywillow bush in the spring because it was covered with bees.

But the foolish apricots are almost ready to blossom. They never learn.

17 March 2007

Sweet and Spicy Udon Noodles

I tried making this for the first time tonight and it was wonderful.

Udon noodles- I used frozen noodles that were divided into single servings and used 3 servings worth (I never estimate the amount of noodles very well, so no help here)
Soy sauce
Brown sugar
Crushed red pepper
1 T minced garlic
Lots of vegetables- I used broccoli, green onions, baby bok choi, and bean sprouts. There were probably 5-6 of vegetables
Tofu (it's far and away better frozen first; when it thaws, squeeze out the water)

Cook the noodles in hot water. It just takes a minute or two if they were fresh or frozen and longer if they were dried. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok and add the noodles. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add soy sauce and brown sugar as desired in about equal parts. Add as much red pepper as desired- the spicier the better. Continue stir-frying till the noodles start to get a little crispy, a good 15 minutes.

Dump the noodles onto a plate. Or just cook the vegetables in a different skillets and then add them to the big wok with the noodles (I like this option since the noodles take so long to fry). Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet, then add the garlic and saute just for a few seconds. Add the vegetables and stir-fry for about 3 minutes till everything has cooked down but isn't soggy. Combine the noodles and vegetables and tofu in the wok and add lots more brown sugar and soy sauce and red pepper as needed and mix well, being careful not to break up the tofu, but make sure the tofu has a chance to absorb the sauce. Serve immediately.

City Walls

One thing I love about travelling around Asia and the Middle East are the city walls. Lots and lots of city walls from Egypt to China. (It's too bad that China has been pulling down most of the old city walls in the country; at least Xi'an's are still in excellent shape.) I think probably the closest city walls to me right now are in Quebec. Are there other decent city walls in North America? What city walls have you been on? I really want to see Bukhara's.

16 March 2007

Greek-Style Rice with Spinach and Feta

I've been making Paula Wolfert's spinachy rice ever since I got Mediterranean Grains and Green eight years ago, but it had been a while since I made it recently. I'd usually followed the slightly simplified version I posted 2 years ago, but today I pulled out the cookbook to make the original again since I started making it in the days of nursing babies and frazzled dinners.

It was even better than I remembered. It's just a simple dish of rice, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and feta. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of spinach, but I think one pound is enough. It depends on if you're focusing on the rice or the spinach.

1 pound fresh spinach
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin really is worth it)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup pureed tomatoes, fresh or canned
3/4 cup rice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, or 1-2 T dried
Red pepper
Crumbled feta

Wash the spinach well and drain. Sprinkle the leaves with salt and let stand for 30 minutes in a strainer. Rinse and squeeze out the water and shred a bit if desire.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch skillet. Add the green onions, onions, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water and cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. When the water evaporates, slowly let the onions turn golden, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup water, the tomato puree, and the rice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Spread the spinach and dill over the rice, cover, and cook 10 minutes longer till the rice is done. Mix well and add a bit more olive oil, and the salt and pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature garnish with feta.

14 March 2007

What I've Been Reading

I haven't read any books completely since finishing Snow, but I have been happily reading parts of several books.

Oral Epics of Central Asia I wish this book was still available for a reasonable price because I would love to own it. Nora Chadwick takes a huge (but not comprehensive) number of the oral epics of Central Asia and Siberia and classifies and discusses them. This is a handy collection and summary of a lot of epics. Highly recommended.

Holy War in China: The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia, 1864-1877 This is an excellent book about Xinjiang in the late Qing era. Recommended.

The Oroqens: China's Nomadic Hunters This book is based on research done in the 1960s and was published in the early 1980s, so it's pretty heavy on Chinese communist propaganda. Still, it is rather an interesting book about a very small group of people in China (they are closely related to the Evenki, discussed in the next book). Recommended.

Gaining Ground?: Evenkis, Land, and Reform in Southeastern Siberia This is a brief background of the history and land use issues of the Evenkis by Gail Fondahl. Fondahl has spent a great deal of time in this part of the world and this book is clear and easy to read, but very informative. Recommended.

Please Don't Hide

I've always wondered why breastfeeding in public ever became a taboo in the US. Is it because breastfeeding itself almost disappeared in the middle of the 20th century? That's the only reason I can think of. We almost forgot about it, and now that it's in vogue, it doesn't quite seem like a necessity. A woman can always give her baby a bottle.

It amazes me that women in the US are asked to leave public places when they breastfeed. That laws have to be passed to allow women to feed their babies in public. That I have been asked to sit somewhere else when I have been breastfeeding.

I have seen veiled Muslim women breastfeeding in public. It is a non-issue for them. I have never seen a women in any place who has not breastfed discretely. The point is to feed the baby, and mothers generally feed their babies in the quickest way possible. The goal is not indecent exposure.

Let's get over it, shall we? I bet that many people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding have seen lots of breastfeeding babies and don't even realize it. Breastfeeding is going on all the time. Let's teach our children that breastfeeding is normal and common and good and to not be uncomfortable with it. Both our sons and daughters need to hear this message more often. And it's hard to get this message out if breastfeeding mothers are hiding.

12 March 2007


Does anyone know where I can buy a qazan in the US?

10 Days Till Nooruz

Are you getting ready for Nooruz? It's time to start your wheat sprouting and to start cleaning the house (aren't you supposed to spring clean anyway?). We're moving (yes, again, but this is only a sort-of move) this week so cleaning is all we're doing this week.

And if you live in Utah and are interested in Nooruz party, email me.

10 March 2007

Women of the Mountains- Day 2

I was only able to go up for the morning today and since they had four panels going on at once, I really didn't many of the papers that were presented today. But most of what I did hear today was about education, particularly in Kyrgyzstan. Since the main organizers of this conference either are Kyrgyz or have significant ties with Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan has been well represented. The Kyrgyz presenters generally got their visas unlike most of the rest of the Central Asian participants, which was nice, but I still wish the US government wasn't quite so picky about visas.

The first speaker was from American Councils talking about the test (I can't remember the official name) that Kyrgyz universities now use to determine which students will receive state grants to cover their expenses while they are studying at the university. I was aware of the test since the students referred to it several time (some had gotten scholarships) and

The second presenter talked about cultural exchange with Kyrgyzstan. I felt the focus was a little too much on exporting American ideas to Kyrgyzstan and only exporting handicrafts instead of ideas from Kyrgyzstan, but it was still an interesting discussion.

Then a few people from Mountain Forum spoke. It was nice to get a better sense of Mountain Forum's goals and what their focus is. The trouble was the first presenter did this nicely, and then the next two repeated a lot of it. The first speaker was from the North America section, the second from the African, and the third from Latin America. It would have been more effective if the last two speakers had addressed what their specific nodes were working on instead of discussing the general goals of Mountain Forum.

Then I went to the panel on education, but I was only able to stay for half of it. Most of the presentations were about education in Kyrgyzstan, one about establishing internet access in Tajikistan, and one was on microcredit (Why that wasn't in the economic section, I don't know. There were several papers in the cultural section I went to yesterday that focused on education. ) A friend of ours from Kyrgyzstan talked about the need for technology and teaching reform in Kyrgyzstan.

Overall I enjoyed the conference. It had a rather limited focus which meant that many of the presenters weren't really talking about mountain women, but it was a good start. I did feel that corruption was glossed over by nearly all of the presenters, which is a shame since corruption plays a huge role in the problems mountain women have. Mountain women are generally very underrepresented in government, and the farther you are from the top, the more you're going to be hurt by corruption.

09 March 2007

Women of the Mountains, Day 1

So, I spent a rather interesting IWD. Listening to the ambassador from Turkmenistan singing the praises of Turkmenistan's peace and prosperity (since he really couldn't say much that is positive about women in Turkmenistan) to hearing to a women extol the virtues of Fascinating Womanhood makes for, well, an interesting day. (I'm still debating what exactly her point was- she couldn't really think that book is any good, could she?).

I have been enjoying the conference though. Sadly though a number of participants weren't able to come which leaves a rather Utah-centric discussion. And that's not what I was going for. I was hoping for an international conference (not academic, UVSC couldn't really pull that off).

It was interesting though to listen to the ambassadors speak about gender equality in their various countries (Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Albania, and Nepal). The Nepalese Ambassador to the UN gave the best presentation, but the Kyrgyz Ambassador, the only women of the group, gave the most interesting. She said that women in Kyrgyzstan, mostly because of tradition, aren't ready to be leaders yet in Kyrgyzstan. I don't agree with that; I think it's more likely that men aren't ready, but overall I enjoyed what she had to say.

The best paper I heard presented was Jini Roby's on orphans. She said her research in Africa has found that mothers who are dying of AIDS prefer their soon-to-be-orphaned children to go to orphanages rather than extended family. I was pretty surprised by that, but her research also found that those mothers' biggest worries for their children are food and education. Say what you will about orphanages, but they often do a reasonable job of providing food and education to children. I think a loving home environment might be as important to me as the food and education though, after spending time in the baby house.

Overall, a nice Women's Day. They even handed out flowers. I felt so special.

08 March 2007

Happy Women's Day!

Women of the Mountains- IWD

Actually, what I hope I'll be doing for IWD is attending the Women of the Mountains Conference (see Mountain Forum's website for an overview of the conference). This is a major international conference that will prepare for the second Global Mountain Summit (link to the first summit) in Bishkek in October.

But what I probably be doing is what most women around the world will be doing- taking care of my family. And maybe that's the best thing to do tomorrow.

I hope I can at least go for a few hours each day to hear some of our friends present their papers. And I wish the Utah State Bar hadn't interfered with our plans for my husband to submit a paper.

07 March 2007

Snow, Kar

"I'd like to tell your readers not to believe anything you say about me, anything you say about any of us. No one could understand us from so far away."

I've been slowly working my way through a couple of books for the last week or two; that's why I haven't written about any books recently. Snowby Orhan Pamuk is the main book I'm reading. It's not really very long, but it isn't a book to be rushed through. I enjoyed it very much. Melissa had a few posts about Snow a year ago where she wrote about having the right background to enjoy this book. I have to completely agree. If you know nothing about Turkey- whether its politics, people, or conflicts- this book may not be for you. And if you don't know much about current conflicts within Islam itself, this book could be confusing too.

This book isn't simply about the head scarf girls; in fact, despite the focus of many reviews on these girls, I didn't think head scarves are a major part of the book even though religion certainly is.

Complaints of reformers in the West will not have any kind of significant impact on people like Blue or the MIT. Forcing anyone to obey a repressive set of laws, either through military coups or Islamic law isn't right. Almost every Muslim country struggles with either or both of these, but reform has to come from moderates within those countries. From people who allow Muslims to practice their religion freely, but also allow non-Muslims to practice (or not practice) their faith as they choose. From people who try to change things that drag a country down, but don't turn their backs on their country's history. From people who want others to be happy and have respect for others' choices. Democracy requires quite a bit of tolerance at least.

I particularly like the places where its Turkicness- not just Turkishness- comes through.

Even though the book was sloooow to read, I never considered quitting in the middle. And I particularly liked what Fazil had to say at the very end of the book- what I quoted at the beginning of this post. He's right, but I'm not sure Fazil misses the point. I can't really understand the intolerance of political Islamists, nor can I understand the motivations of repressive governments. And I can't understand why the vast majority of humankind submits to repressive leaders, whether political or religious. But I'm not sure understanding is the goal. Respect and cooperation and compassion are more important, and that's what's really hard to manage from so far away.

International Women's Day

I'm sure that in a few days there will be a zillion posts on various blogs about International Women's Day. And in many ways it's an excellent holiday. I particularly like the International Women's Day website, especially their links to a huge number of events going on with IWD.


IWD isn't just about empowering women. In the countries that really celebrate this holiday (almost all are post-communist countries), it's more like Mother's Day or a celebration of the advancements communism brought to women- a celebration of being a Soviet woman. I'm not too excited about what communism has done to many parts of the world, and IWD should be about more than taking flowers to your mother and women teachers (especially when it's understood that those flowers are a bit of a bribe)- although I didn't mind getting a seat on the bus last IWD.

There are too many meanings tied up in the holiday for me to really enjoy it. Maybe I'll try to think of the afternoon I spent with some Kyrgyz women last year when they celebrated IWD simply by sharing a meal and enjoying being together.

06 March 2007

Crayola Calendar

I had no idea Crayola was so multicultural. They've got craft ideas for everything from Purim to O Bon to Dia de los Muertos (although they've got Muhammad's birthday on May 24th instead of March 31st). Maybe I'll send them some Navruz ideas.

03 March 2007


Sumalak seems to be the one traditional food for Nooruz in Kyrgyzstan specifically and more generally in Central Asia. But I've never been able to figure out how to make it. No one I asked in Kyrgyzstan really knew how to make it. I've found a recipe in Uzbek, but I don't read Uzbek well enough to use this recipe. Maybe I'll get someone to translate it. I found a recipe in English, but it's a little hard to follow since I've never actually seen sumalak prepared, much less eaten the finished product so I know what it's supposed to look like. This recipe in English seems to be the best choice. I'm going to have to start pestering the few Central Asians in town. I do plan to try this soon since it takes more than a week to prepare sumalak and it's less than three weeks till Navruz and I want to come up with a reasonable recipe by the 14th.

I did find a story about sumalak at orexca.com:

A long time ago there was a woman who had two sons. There names were Hasan and Husan. Because she was a widow, and very poor, they had very little to eat, and her sons always cried from hunger. One day their mother became very weary of their crying, and sorrowful that she had nothing to give them to eat.

That evening, after they had gone to bed, she asked her neighbor for some wheat, then she took a pot from the cuphoard in which she placed 7 stones, poured water over the stones and stirred in the flour. Her sons heard the sounds, and thought their mother was cooking something delicious to eat. Reassured that they would soon have a good meal, they became quiet, closed their eyes and fell asleep. A little later their mother also slept. When she woke up in the early hours of the morning, she saw 30 angels standing around the pot. She rubbed her eyes, and when she opened them again, she saw them licking their fingers.

In her delight, she woke up her sons. In their excitement they ran to the pot and found it filled with a most succulent porridge. From that time forth the boys were never hungry. The name of the meal was called Sumalak which, the Uzbek people say, means 30 angels.

01 March 2007


Makes 6-7 loaves. I've never tested this recipe, nor do I think I ever had kattama. But it's about the only Kyrgyz bread recipe I have.

2 kg wheat flour
2 tablespoons salt
1 liter of milk

Put flour and salt in a large bowl, and pour in milk while stirring. The result will be a smooth dough; set this aside.

300 grams of butter
500 grams of sliced onion
Scant T salt
1 teaspoon of red pepper

Preheat a frying pan; add the butter and melt it. Add the sliced onion, salt, and pepper. Saute until the onion is light brown.

The dough should be divided into fist-sized pieces. Roll each piece into roughly circular 1-cm-thick pieces. Smear with 1 tablespoon of the onion filling; roll the dough up into a tube, and then coil the tube up – the result should look something like a cinnamon roll. Repeat this process with other pieces of dough, and let them stand for 5-7 minutes. After they have stood for this period, roll them out flat again, and place each roll into a medium-hot frying pan. Once the Kattama has browned (3-4 minutes) turn it over. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.


2 cups warm milk
1 egg
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
4-5 cups of flour

Mix everything together until you have a soft dough. Add only enough flour so it's not too sticky. Let it sit for a few hours, then roll it out about 1/2 inch thick (adding more flour if needed) and fry. Deep frying is best, but if you need to fry them in a smaller amount of oil on each side, do that.

Borsak is a very traditional holiday treat in Central Asia.  They're usually served with jam or honey. We ate these on Nooruz, Women's Day, Eid al-Adha, New Year's, everything.