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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Tuvan Folk Cuisine

Traditions of nutrition of the Central Asian nomads evolved from time immemorial. The economic subsistence of the aboriginal population of the Sayan-Altai area was based on nomadic herding. Herding involved small and large horned cattle, including yaks (in the high mountain regions in the west and southeast of the republic), as well as horses and camels. Cattle breeding was the most natural occupation, which secured material prosperity of the family and clan.
Agriculture, growing of barley and millet, was of secondary importance.
Tuvans have many customs, rituals and proverbs associated with traditions of rational nutrition of adults and children. In a way, a system of feeding, with a tradition of many centuries, has been preserved until the present. Thanks to the fact that Tuvan territory includes practically all possible climatic zones, Tuvans have the opportunity to utilize in their daily life the meat of camels, yaks, deer, beef, goat, and horse, however, fresh mutton is considered a delicacy.
Legendary heroes of Tuvan epics used to eat a whole ram in one piece, spitting out only the large bones. Nowadays, of course, few attempt to imitate the feats of epic heroes, but the rules of killing and butchering the animal, which have come down from the depths of centuries, are still strictly observed.
No matter how rich you may be
Never discard the sheep head.
No matter how poor you may be,
Never eat the fascia from the shin.
Never eat the meat from the shoulder-blade alone.
Tuvan cuisine is very high in calories. The aficionados and amateurs of folk cooking are aware of its healing virtues.
Meat dishes
Liver shashlik (kebab) "sogazha"
Sogazha is one of the most favorite Tuvan foods; it is made very quickly, right after the sheep is killed and butchered. Every piece of liver is wrapped in omental fat, salted, impaled on a spit and grilled over hot coals. Sogazha is eaten hot, and very fast, it is not recommended to follow it with a drink of cold water.
Blood sausage "izig khan"
Tuvans call the blood sausage izig-khan, which in translation means "hot blood", and everybody loves this delicacy. No rich feast is thinkable without izig khan. Salted,, raw blood with chopped onions is poured into a thoroughly washed sychug (compartment of the sheep stomach). Sychug should not be filled completely, because it could burst during cooking. The edges of the sychug are gathered together and fastened with a sharpened stick in several places. The sticks are covered with a small piece of fat, and tied with a segment of small intestine in a "figure eight" configuration. This sychug sausage is called chymchag khan, or 'soft sausage'. In order for it c to cook fast, a small amount of water is added to the blood. Tuvans do not find it acceptable to add milk to blood; they believe that to mix "white with red" leads to losing your happiness. Even though some people do not keep this taboo, believing that milk will add more softness and delicacy to the khan. Checking the sausage for doneness is done with piercing it with a thin stick, needle or toothpick. Clear fluid should come out if it is done. According to the rule soft hospitality, the tip of the lower end of the sausage is "given to the fire", upper part together with the stick is given to the master of the yurt, and the rest is divided into the number of yurts, whose people are to be given a share of the fresh-cooked meat - og e'di. 
Blood sausage in the duodenum
Sheep blood is poured into carefully cleaned duodenum (first part of intestine after stomach). The ends are tied with a strong thread. The sausages are cooked in salted water. The way of checking for doneness is the same - pierce it.
Soup of sheep offal "kara mun"
Kara mun "'black soup' is very highly prized by Tuvans. After the sheep is butchered, a soup is made with meat on the bone, lungs, liver, heart, pieces of diaphragm and the intestines. The resulting bouillon is very strong, of dark color, which gives it its name. The ribs are cooked in pairs, without breaking them. If this rule is not observed, it will lead to disputes, according to local belief. Then grains or rice, or homemade noodles are added. Salt, pepper according to taste. Tuvans believe that kara-mun is good for your health. It has therapeutic virtues: for a cold or dry cough, they add crushed peony root and drink it very hot, and wrap themselves well to induce sweating.
Ritual dish "uzha"
Uzha is the most honored Tuvan dish; it is presented during marriage arrangements, when they are "taking the bride", during the wedding feast, at the birth of a child, at consecration rituals, or during the greatest holidays it is given to the most respected person. Uzha is made from the lower part of the body of a fat-tail ram. The ram is separated without touching the meat on the hips, and taking a generous portion of meat on the behind. With correct butchering, six lumbar vertebrae will be kept in piece with the "kurdyuk" (fatty tail). Uzha is cooked in a large amount of water. Together with the uzha, a shin is served on a large plate, and two of the largest ribs. Uzha is served with the back upward. The ribs should be positioned in such a way that their heads should point towards the upper part of the uzha, and the shin with the thick end. The uzha should be oriented with the back towards the honored person for whom it is prepared. He is expected to cut a piece of meat with fat from the left side of the uzha, put it on the right side of the plate, and then cutting a piece from the right side, eat a piece himself, then hand pieces out to the other guests.
Dairy dishes
Preparation of the majority of dairy products - farmers' cheese, buttermilk, cream, cheese and butter is the same as in other countries.
Cheese made form whole milk "Byshtak"
Milk is boiled, and buttermilk is added to it. After some time, itpek forms, then a small amount of white foam over it. This is collected and put in a cheesecloth bag, this bag is pressed between two flat boards, and weighted with a stone, to give the cheese the correct form. After some time, when the clear serous fluid drains, the boards and the rock are removed, the bag is taken off, and the resulting cheese is covered with it.
Farmer's cheese from buttermilk "aarzhy"
Buttermilk is collected fro several days in a wooden vessel, then it is boiled and cooled. The clear fluid is drained in a special bag, hanging on two poles. The clear fluid drains, and the farmer's cheese remains in the bag. This bag of cheese is then pressed for a day under a weighted board. Finished aarzhy is then dried and crushed. It is usually eaten with the foam - oreme. Farmer's cheese is good for colds, headaches, and people drink it with hot tea until sweating is induced.
Dry farmer's cheese "kurut"
Especially children love kurut. Farmer's cheese is cut in small squares, circles or strips, then it is dried threaded on a string like mushrooms, hung to the yurt latticework. It becomes very hard with drying. People take it along for long trips, for example to a distant pasture. One can bring kurut home as a souvenir, it keeps its appearance for many months. Cases are known when foreigners took kurut home and kept it for years along with their most valued souvenirs.
Green tea with milk "suttug shai"
Suttug shai is one of the most favorite beverages of the Tuvans. It slakes thirst well, and adds strength and good cheer. Tea is good not just with cow's milk, but also with sheep or got milk. Camel milk is quite salty, and salt is added only after it is cooked.. Crushed green tea is added to fresh cold water. When it boils, milk is added, then it is brought to boil again. The mixture is stirred with a cooking spoon, and it is stirred constantly with the saarar technique until the milk is boiled. (saarar - a technique widely used by Tuvans in preparation of tea and other beverages. While boiling, the milk is picked up with the cooking spoon and allowed to pour back into the vessel from a height repeatedly, about 40 times.) after this, salt is added to taste.
Buttermilk "khoitpak"
Khoitpak is a type of fermented milk product (Turkish name 'airan'). People drink it, distill milk vodka araga from it, and make a sour, sun-dried cheese aarzha from the solid sediment, as well as a mild sweetish cheese byshtak. A ferment is needed to make khoitpak. The best ferment is khoitpak itself, and when none is available, they use wheat roasted in a cheesecloth bag. Sometimes the ferment is prepared beforehand: they take a piece of clean felt, saturate it with khoitpak, and keep it. The felt dries out during the winter, but the ferment does not lose its properties. In the spring, they put the felt in fresh milk, which then ferments quickly. Khoitpak is kept in wooden vessels doskaar, which give the yurts their specific odor. Khoitpak is used as a nutritious beverage to slake thirst: drink two bowls, and you can herd livestock the whole day.
Kumys (koumiss)
Highly nutritious healing drink; it contains up to about 4.5% alcohol, and small amounts of antibiotics. It is offered to guests, wrestlers and horse racers, and peole drink it during holidays and celebrations. Kumys is used in therapy of pulmonary and gastric infections, as well as tuberculosis. It has a tonic effect, brings back strength, and removes depression. Horse milk is poured into a special vessel and stirred with a whisk. When the milk sours, the kumys is ready for use. Time to time fresh milk is added to the kumys.
Milk vodka 'araga'
Araga (araka) is one of folk beverages which one should try at least once in a lifetime. The most important thing is not to get carried away. Distilling apparatus shuruun is used to make araga, made of a whole dug-out tree trunk, which is stabilized in a vessel by stones. On top of this pipe, a (metal) vessel with cold water is located, which serves to condense the alcohol; cracks in the pipe are wrapped in felt. When the beverage is boiled, a by-product called shimi aragazy comes out of the shuruun by way of a special drainage canal. After the first distillation, araga does not contain much alcohol. A stronger, clear araga is obtained after a second and third distillation. Such vodka is of the "glow" grade.
Other dishes
Tuvans used also wheat and barley flour products as food.
Barley and wheat flour "dalgan"

Coarse flour from roasted grains of barley or wheat is used. After tea, this is the Tuvans' first food. Barley grains are first crushed in a large wooden mortar sogaash, then it is winnowed, roasted in a cast iron kettle (without butter), then it is crushed again. During the last winnowing, all the peelings are removed, and then it is milled in a stone hand-mill deerbe. A small amount of dalgan is put in a bowl, melted butter is added, sugar to taste, then a small amount of Tuvan tea is added and stirred. It is eaten hot.
Cleaned and slightly roasted millet is put in a bowl, hot Tuvan tea is poured on it. When the millet swells and softens, the tea is drunk with added cream or milk.
In warm milk, mix melted butter sarzhag, sugar, may add salt or egg, and mix it all together to make a soft dough. Roll it out, not too thin, and cut out various shapes; fry those in sarzhag. Bovaa should be soft, with a pleasant taste.
Spices and condiments
Wild herbs and medicinal plants collected by Tuvans are also used in folk cuisine. Chaga ( birch fungus), nettles, goldenroot, sarana, rose hips, sea buckthorn, licorice, and currants are used to make concentrates, which are a source of valuable vitamins during winter.
Wild onion 'kulcha'
Kulcha grows in dry areas. Tuvans differentiate between two kinds of kulcha; the first, edible for humans, and the second, which is eaten by animals. In the fall, they collect kulcha heads, and dry them. Then they grind the dry onion, mix is with fresh farmer's cheese, make small pancakes from it, thread them on a string and dry them on the yurt lattice. It keeps a long time in this way. Kulcha is added to soups, pelmeni, and sausages, adding inimitable flavor. Kulcha may be simply pounded, and kept in small bags.
Wild dill 'koinut'
Koinut is wild dill, ripe seeds of koinut are collected and dried, pounded in a mortar, then sieved. Such powder is added to soups and ground meat, adding remarkable aroma and wonderful flavor., translated by Heda Jindrak
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