31 March 2012

Suitcase Food, Both Directions

When I move to Kyrgyzstan, there are a few food items I like to bring that you can't get here, like coconut milk (there's coconut juice, but not coconut milk) and fish sauce.  But when I move from Kyrgyzstan, there are also a few things I wish I could take with me.  Most things I can't really take, like laghman (which is why I have to figure out how to make so many new things), but there will definitely be a few bags of Pakistani rice in my suitcase and a few bottles of 80% vinegar because I love being able to make my vinegar as strong as I want. 

And then I'll have to find places that sell the rice and the vinegar while I'm enjoying coconut milk and fish sauce.

Milk Milk Milk

Some days it feels like I deal with milk a lot.  Like today.  First I bought three liters of milk for yogurt and three for paneer and heated both.  I made paneer with the milk that was ready first, then waited for the other milk to finish heating.  It had a slightly funny smell that I assumed came from the used plastic bottle it had been in.  That doesn't happen often, but sometimes you can tell that the milk had been in a Fanta bottle or something like that. 

Anyway, the yogurt milk started to separate into curds and whey while it was heating, so the funny smell was clearly something acidic.  If I'd known, I'd have used the other milk for yogurt, but I ended up adding a little more vinegar to the funny milk and now we have two blocks of paneer which is never a bad thing.  And I tried the funny one and since it tasted fine and didn't kill me, it's all good.

So I went back out to find someone who was still selling milk so I could make yogurt.  Milk seems to be most popular on Saturday mornings, and there weren't quite as many people out selling it today, so I had to search a bit, but I found three more liters.  And I got another four liters of bagged milk since we drink two liters a day which is a lot in most parts of the world, but not so much for an American family of 5.  Then I made dulce de leche with a can of sweetened condensed milk. 

That was 13 liters of milk in one day, mostly fresh and off the street, but since half of it became paneer, it doesn't take up much space and there's always room for yogurt in my fridge.  Sometimes I remember buying 4 gallons of milk at a time for the entire week and using a rolling thing to carry them home.  That sounds nice. 

30 March 2012

Photo a Day, March 30: Out of Ideas

If March had 29 days like Februrary did, I'd have made it through the whole month with a new photo for each day.  But I've run out of photos and I'm not going to find anything new.  I had hoped to be able to post some spring bird photos, but I haven't even seen a wagtail, much less a hoopoe.  And so I shall cheat and post a photo from this time last year. Because I liked this guy.

29 March 2012

Photo a Day, March 29: Beshbarmak

We went to an event recently where they'd made several different types of beshbarmak.  It's a very Central Asian dish, specifically Turkic, in my mind.   Beshbarmak means "five fingers" and it's eaten with your hand. Personally, it's not my favorite; usually it's boiled meat, noodles, and onions with a little salt. I believe Tatars often use flat noodles as in the last photo, but I usually see long noodles.  There are a lot of variations and here are a few.

 Some of these photos are a little wonky, but you expect that here.

Naryn region.  That's in northern Kyrgyzstan south of Issyk-Kul.  It's one of the coldest regions of the country and is usually considered to be the most authentically Kyrgyz.

From Talas.  It's in the northwest part of the country and a bit isolated by the mountains from the rest of the country.  I haven't been there since the main road there goes through Kazakhstan.

From Chuy region.  Bishkek and Tokmok are in Chuy.

This is gulchotai.  Unfortunately I don't know anything more about this dish, even after searching in Kyrgyz.

Ozgocho beshbarmak.  Let me know if you know what that means, because I don't, unless it's from Uzgen.

Atyrau style.  Atyrau is in Kazakhstan on the Caspian Sea, so it's popular to use sturgeon there.

Kazak beshbarmak

28 March 2012

Photo a Day, March 28

So it's probably just me, but this photo makes me smile too.

27 March 2012

Stand Your Ground

Lots of people are talking about Trayvon Martin's death in Florida last month.  There's a lot we don't know about what happened, but here's what bothers me.  It's pretty clear from 911 recordings that Zimmerman started the whole thing by following Martin after he'd reported what he thought was Martin's suspicious behavior.  If he hadn't continued following Martin, as advised, Zimmerman's role in this would have been over.  And that's all his role should have been.  If you do something that provokes anger and/or fear in another person and they attack you, I'm not at all convinced that your self-defence claim is so clear-cut that you shouldn't even be charged if you shoot the person whom you provoked (although I can think of exceptions to this).  If Martin did punch Zimmerman, that wasn't cool.  He obviously shouldn't have.  It's entirely possible that Zimmerman has a legitimate self-defence claim.  But that ought to be proven in court.

Photo a Day, March 27: Textiles

26 March 2012

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

A blogging friend (who shall remain nameless because I don't remember who it was) recommended this recently, and I liked the author's previous The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry well enough, so I tried it. And I was very pleasantly surprised- I might even say I loved it.

It wasn't perfect; I felt preached at in nearly every chapter, but the preachy parts were easy to skip.  Mostly though, it was good to read about people learning a new skill that mattered to them.  That's always worth reading about from a decent author.

Photo a Day, March 26: Pussywillows

I think these pussywillows are the only sign of spring I've seen so far.  The air is warmer, the snow mostly gone, the birds twitterpated, but I the plants aren't really cooperating.  There are patches of greenish-looking grass though. 

25 March 2012

Photo a Day, March 25: Food

Love the colors here.

Seems to me people won't buy much ice cream if you have to wear a coat while you're selling it.  But Nooruz is the traditional day to start selling ice cream again. 

That's a lot of meat ready to cook.

One place we went had a competition to see who could eat the most meat.  Each man had this much to get through in an hour.  They mutually agreed to stop when each was about 3/4 finished.  Personally, I don't think I'll ever get used to eating a sheep that's looking at me.

Cooking on rocks.  Delicious.

24 March 2012

Photo a Day, March 24: Bone Games

Can't skip posting the Nooruz bone games.

Burnt Bread and Chutney

I browsed into this one at the library (if you can browse an e-library) and I was pleasantly surprised by it.  It's a memoir of a Jewish woman who is both ethnically Indian and Eastern European, and American herself.  It's also the story of and tribute to the author's Indian grandmother, Nana-bai.

I've long been interested in Jewish minorities and how they navigate life in what is now a white Jewish world.  Israel's majority is not white although you'd never know it from see its leadership on the news.  There's much more written about Jewish culture and heritage both in and out of Israel from a white perspective so this book is worthwhile just for that (and more).  I'll look to see if more have been published like this- there wasn't too much in the 90s, but I haven't looked in the last ten years since switching my focus from the Middle East to Central Asia.

There was an interesting statement near the end of the book that made me think a little.  I've always thought it's ironic that the current country of Israel was allowed to be created by the West to create a homeland for the displaced Jews the West didn't want, but that most Jews who ended up in Israel weren't from the West, but from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  But could those small, isolated Jewish communities have survived modernity without something like Israel?  This doesn't make me any more inclined to celebrate the creation of the state of Israel, but at least it's a possible positive result, even if those cultures are necessarily losing something of themselves in Israel..

There were a few things that weren't the best, of course.  I'd have liked more dates, especially regarding Nana-bai.  The only thing I could pin anything to was that the author was born around 1975.  Maybe there was a reason for not putting any dates in, but I felt like it was important information that was left out.  Also, I got tired of all the author's growing up, but I feel that way with most any memoir.  It's bad enough to live through being a teenager; why do so many people want to relive it in detail and make the rest of us read all about it?

But those were small complaints in a very interesting book.

23 March 2012

Photo a Day, March 23: Sumalak

I finally was able to try real sumalak on Nooruz.  None of us loved it even though I was a lot more positive about it when I made it five years ago (although I didn't get it quite right then- maybe I just like it undercooked).  But there was lots of it available here in Bishkek on Wednesday. If I ever decide to try it again, it'll be in the crockpot and when we have friends from Central Asia visiting for Navruz.  There's also this good recipe in English.

You could get a bottle or a cup.

Or bring your own jar to get filled.

There was plenty of sumalak everywhere to go around.

22 March 2012

Waiting for Wagtails

A year ago at this time the masked wagtails had been back for at least a couple of weeks, but I haven't seen one yet this year.  There's currently a prize for the first person in the family to spot one.  It's a little like seeing the first robin of the year.

Photo(s) a Day, March 22, Kalpaks

Nooruz is a day for kalpaks.  The husband likes to take photos of kalpaks.  So we have a lot of kalpak pictures now.

21 March 2012

Photo(s) a Day, March 21- or Happy Nooruz!

I love Nooruz, and you know that if you've been reading this blog for more than a little while. Here's a little of what we saw today. If you don't know what Nooruz is, here are some links to previous years since I always write about it.

 These photo are from Ala-Too Square. We were there a little early, but the biggest problem was the huge police presence while made getting around very difficult. A major part of the square was blocked off leaving small areas for many people to get through. Still, it was a good time.