Almaty’s Immense Food Emporium
Almaty is Kazakhstan’s biggest city, and while there are signs of Western influence and consumer culture, this bustling metropolis gets its strongest sense of identity from its nomadic ancestors and their traditions. One of the best places to witness this heritage and to try the authentic flavors of Central Asia is Almaty’s largest market, the Green Bazaar. The Soviet-era architecture may be severe and uninviting, but at its heart, the Green Bazaar is an immense food emporium, evidence that the Silk Road is being reborn again after two decades of open borders. There’s an incredible array of spices, fruits and vegetables grown locally and in neighboring Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan: pomegranates so ripe you can suck the juice right out of them, dried apricots of all varieties, apples grown on the slopes just outside of the city. But the backbone of Kazakh food is meat and dairy, and this market has no shortage of either. Kazakh people love meat—particularly lamb, sheep, goat and horse—and they don’t waste any part of the animal, from the horse’s mane to the rectum. One of the best things I tried was kazi, a horse sausage made from whole pieces of rib meat seasoned with garlic and salt, stuffed into natural casing and smoked, resulting in a beautiful mix of lean horse meat and layers of melt-in-your-mouth fat. In the dairy section, you’ll find everything from fermented, yogurt-like camel’s milk to fresh goat cheese and desserts such as dried milk curds coated in sesame seeds. People here have learned to make an amazing variety of foods from milk, and it’s all on display at the Green Bazaar.
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