Traditional drinks – local tastes which will surprise you

139

A country’s unique culture and traditions tell you a lot about people and their lifestyle, behaviour and desires. At the same time, their food and drink can tell you about the mindset and true essence of a nation. The traditional drinks of Kyrgyzstan that every single person loves and drinks on a daily basis tell of the wild and strong Kyrgyz spirit. Almost no foreigner can finish a cup of traditional drink, a drink that embodies life in this beautiful, free spirited country, Kyrgyzstan, full of wild nature and unexplored places.

Long time before the USSR, Kyrgyz nomads constantly moved from place to place across the steppe and in the mountains despite the cold or warm weather. For that reason, their food and drinks were high in calories and nutrition. In spite of the influence of different cultures during the Soviet period, as well as the era of globalisation and modernisation, the Kyrgyz have managed to not only keep and follow the traditional recipes, but also to improve them.

Maksym

One of the most common drinks is Maksym, which is mainly made of barley and corn, wheat and millet. Maksym is prepared by boiling “talkan” made by the grinding process of the roasted grains and the following fermentation of them.  However, there is no common way to prepare this drink and that’s why maksym prepared by ten different women in the same village will have ten different tastes. The main characteristic of the beverage is not only a unique sweet and brackish taste with the pleasant smell of roasted grains, but more importantly, its ability as an instant and long-term thirst quencher, incomparable and unparalleled in the beverage world. In addition, no other beverage in the world can be cooled to -4°C. Maksym has this ability due to the presence of salt. So during the summer you can see barrel stands of maksym around the city and you can enjoy this drink at a temperature below the temperature of the Arctic Ice. By the way, maksym fans claim that the drink is the best cure for a hangover, come and try yourself. We dare you to try this drink.

Chalap

The taste of this beverage is reminiscent of liquid salty yogurt. The preparation process is simple: you add salt and sugar as well as mineral water to the fermented or diluted cow’s milk. Chalap is full of calcium, that’s why it’s so beneficial and it actively helps reduce body weight.

Zharma

Similar to Masksym but made without fermentation. Zharma is rarely made in the capital however in the regions and villages you still find this drink in every home. After all, this beverage was one of the most important products after meat for nomadic Kyrgyz. Evidence shows that the oldest method of cereal consumption was Zharma, long before the appearance of pastries. Nomads had hot Zharma during the cold time of the year and cold Zharma when it was hot. This beverage is able to quench thirst and hunger. During famine Zharma saved many people from starvation and death.

Bozo

This strong beverage is made of millet. First you boil the millet and later add yeast for fermentation. According to the results of the Kyrgyz National Canter of Hematology research, this drink increases haemoglobin in the blood and improves the performance of the pancreas. Bozo contains biologically valuable components: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, macro and micro trace elements and vitamins that are useful for your body.

Kumys

Kumyz takes a special place in the culture of the Kyrgyz, and it is a well-known beverage among all people with nomadic roots. This drink is made of mare’s milk obtained by lactic and alcoholic fermentation. The duration of leavening and the cooking conditions directly affect the taste of kumyz. Sometimes it can be very strong, with a high alcohol level and can make you quite tipsy or on the contrary can be soothing and lead you into a dreamy state. Kumis has a number of therapeutic properties. It is used to treat tuberculosis, scurvy, gastritis, pancreatic disease, anaemia, neurasthenia, cardiovascular diseases and typhoid fever. More than that, in Germany, kumis is used in cosmetics for producing dry masks and nourishing creams. As for Kyrgyzstan, one of the most popular recreational activities is “Kumyz treatment”, when you go high into the mountains to a Jailooo (a meadow in the mountains) and you stay a week in a Yurta and drink fresh kumis, allowing all toxins to leave your body.