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New Kyrgyz-English Culinary Dictionary, The
by: Martha E. Weeks
Martha's Samizdat 2001, $20.00, Spiralbound
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2003 Issue: 10(3) page(s): 28
Previous dictionaries, most Russian, used lots of Russian words at the expense of those of the Kyrgyz language. That makes this hand-written self-published item a welcome and an illuminating item; and an appropriate book of words about a population discussed in the article about Kyrgyz in this issue. The volume reviewed is the second expanded edition and is based upon even more cookbooks, dictionaries, and other reference materials, all listed in this spiral-bound especially valuable foreign food dictionary.
The author lived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Her book tells you that the name of this capital city means a whisk to stir kumyss. This population uses the Cyrrilic alphabet with a few additions, and so the book provides a pronunciation guide in the front of it.
Reading through or browsing reveals that the Kyrgyz people know the word chopsticks, and the ones for forks, knives, and spoons. They have words for brick tea and green tea, and for ginseng, ginger, cilantro, steamed bread, and soy milk, soy flour, and soy beans. They have these because they use these items often. That is because their country sits between Kazakstan and China.
Not a plain dictionary, this hand-written one has a mite of culture thrown in. One learns about boorsok chachma and the Kyrgyz custom of dropping boorsoks or pieces of deep-fat fried dough into the cradle of a newborn. More culture comes in other dictionary definitions. Uul toy is a sonís feast held after the birth of a boy.
We found reading the list of words fascinating. They reveal Russian, Persian, Muslim, Indian, and Chinese influences. They show a large number of foods made with horsemeat, sheep, and milk products. Therefore, we loved this eye-opener and do hope that the next book by Martha Weeks will have recipes. They can certainly open a larger window on this Central Asian culture. Sitting next to China, there were many two-way transfers of foods; this dictionary shows some of them. Wonder about many others.
The Kyrgyz recipe that follows is rewritten in Flavor and Fortune recipe style.
1 ox tail, cut into two-inch sections
3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn or another vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon scallion, sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 dried chili, crushed with seeds removed
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground licorice powder or ground anise
2 whole star anise
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
1/4 cup peeled and sliced carrots
1/4 cup bamboo shoots, sliced
1. Marinate ox tail for ten minutes in half of the soy sauce, all of the wine, and half of the salt.
2. Heat oil and deep fry oxtail pieces until they are light reddish, about three minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat wok, and add two tablespoons of the reserved oil, and fry scallion and ginger for one minute, then add rest of the ingredients (including rest of the soy sauce and salt), but not the carrots and bamboo slices and simmer for two hours.
4. Add carrots and bamboo slices and simmer an additional five minutes, then serve.