Sunday, October 29, 2017

Besbarmak - Kazakh Horse and Lamb Dish

Besbarmak, or beshbarmak, is a traditional and favorite Kazakh dish which means "five fingers" because it was eaten by the nomads with their hands. It traditionally includes a piece of horse rump meat (the hind quarters), kazy (horse meat sausage made from horse rib meat), shuzhuk (also horse meat sausage with more fat in it than kazy) and rack of lamb, all boiled, then mixed with boiled noodles, and spiced with onion sauce. It is usually served with a mutton broth called sorpa. 
This wooden bowl of besbarmak was served to us at Abay Restaurant in Almaty, Kazakhstan. 
One traditional recipe calls for stock to be made from bone-in-lamb, two peeled and sliced onions and ground pepper. Pastry is made from two eggs, flour and salt. The meat is placed in a deep dish and covered with cold water. Bring the meat to a boil, skimming off the foam, and reduce the heat and cover it to simmer. Skim off the fat and keep it in a separate cup. The meat will cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. In the interim, the pasty is made by mixing the eggs, sifted flour, salt and water. The dough is kneaded, wrapped in cling film and left to sit for 20 to 30 minutes. The pastry is divided into balls about the size of apples and then rolled into thin strips, sprinkling it with flour. The pastry is cut into 4 x 4 inch squares and left to sit and dry. When the meat is ready, remove it from the stock to dry. Make a sauce by pouring the skimmed fat over the onions and pepper and salt in a separate dish and boil it on low heat for 7 or 8 minutes. Cook the pastry in the same stock in batches for 7 or 8 minutes each. Then pull it out, sieve off the water, and place it in circles around the dish. Add the meat in the center of the dish, chopped into the desired size. Sprinkle the sauce, called sorpa (or shorpo), over the meat. Then sprinkle it with greens, if desired. 

This Youtube video shows besbarmak being made and eaten five finger style (not in English). It looks quite a bit different than what we had, but looks very good (stop watching the video when it shows the turtle getting its head chopped off  - that is apparently a different segment!).

We had it at a restaurant in Almaty, Kazakhstan called Abay. As Judy pointed out on one of my earlier posts, people on our tour who were horrified by my buying and eating horse meat were happily eating the horse meat served in the besbarmak at the restaurant.
Shuzhuk - horse sausage. We had this as a separate appetizer, but it was also in the besbarmak. 
Kazy, horse sausage, also in the besbarmak. It is less fatty than the shuzhuk.
Boiled horse flank.
Boiled lamb.
In the besbarmak we had, the lamb and the shuzhuk were the most tender ingredients which I enjoyed the most. The horse flank was a little dry. Rather than have us attack the dish ourselves, the server dished up a serving for each of us, one at a time. She gave each of us a little bit of each kind of meat, gave each of us some noodles  (which were long and thin, unlike the squared) and boiled potato (which does not appear to be a part of traditional besbarmak) and then spooned the onion broth on top of it. 


  1. In the video, interesting that what I'm assuming is the lamb's head is cooked with the meat. It must add to the flavor of the stock. Are you going to try this at home? (I hope not.)

  2. Yeah, I was interested to see the lamb's head included. No way to get those big chunks of horse flesh or horse sausage.