The time finally came to “horse something down me” and yes it was January 2016 when I finally ate some horse. Ye-ha! Through the whackpacking years I had tried camel meat stew in Iran, dog meat soup in South Korea, cow steak, kangarooney curry and wallaby bolognaise in Australia, guinea pig in Peru and a pastie supper in Northern Ireland. But enter Kyrgyzstan with its thrilling Beshbarmak. This food kind of translates itself as horse meat noodles, but there’s a load more to it than that.
I headed from my base at the Apple Hostel to downtown Bishkek to try this beast of a feast and I chose the famous Jalalabad Restaurant. It is situated near Chuy Avenue, on Togolok Moldo Street. It’s a traditional Kyrgyz restaurant and the staff are extremely well dressed, welcoming and polite. If you ask nicely, they will pose for photos too!
What is Beshbarmak?
Beshbarmak literally means “five fingers”, because the dish is traditionally eaten by hand. However, these days and as a backpacker, I went with the cutlery option. The meat used in Beshbarmak can change but realistically you want to try the horse. This is the traditional and best recipe they have in Kyrgyzstan.
The horse meat is finely chopped with knives, mixed with boiled noodles, and spiced with onion sauce. It is usually served in a big round dish. The Beshbarmak I had was also served with bread.
It was a tasty treat and definitely a new taste to me, first time to try horse and I’m glad I chose Jalalabad Restaurant to try it.
What is Bozo?
To accompany my Beshbarmak, I choose the local Bozo drink. I loved the Bozo and it had an addictive quality to it. It’s quite hard for me to describe it really. It’s a thick drink, yellow in colour, oddly fizzy and creamy all in one, but it’s not like yoghurt or milk. It’s a countryside drink made from millet grains.
They let it sit and ferment and it actually becomes alcoholic. The weird thing is that at the time I had no idea it was an alcoholic drink! It is made from boiled, fermented millet grains and it is sometimes called “Kyrgyz beer”, even though the local beers are mostly lagers, with Arpa being the number one selling local beer in the country. I loved the Bozo experience and as such, have added it to the inaugural pub crawl experience in Bishkek. Overall the Bozo was great and I loved it as a drink to accompany the Beshbarmak.
Price of Beshbarmak and Bozo?
Obviously I was eating out at a decent restaurant in the city centre of the country’s capital, so this is as dear and fancy as it gets. You could easily get it cheaper and more raw in a countryside village or a less popular restaurant in one of the cities like Osh, Talas or Jalalabad. But I was happy to try a good quality Beshbarmak and Bozo here.
Price of Bozo – 70 Som for 1 litre jug ($1 US)
Price of Beshbarmak – 210 Som for 300 gram helping ($3 US)
So seriously – $4 US Dollars for a tasty treat and a full litre of booze on a Saturday in the capital city in a fab restaurant? Worth every penny!! Thanks to the staff at Jalalabad for such a treat!
Here is a video from my night down Jalalabad Restaurant in Bishkek trying Beshbarmak and Bozo, a tasty treat for any backpacking Ulsterman!: