Dennis’ “Golden Quarter” walking tour was fantastic, but it wasn’t the reason I initially contacted him. Those of you who have been following along for a while won’t be surprised to know that he also offers a foodie tour in the Green Bazaar of Almaty. Of course, I was in!
We were met by another traveler – Benjamin from the US – and headed in to start off with a traditional Kazakh lunch at one of the restaurants in the market.
The menu looked like this
I’m really having a hard time getting used to not being able to read anything or understand anything. I’m so used to travelling in Latin America where, now that I speak Spanish, everything is easy. Dennis translated for us and made some recommendations, and we ended up with a few different dishes.
Both he and Benjamin ordered Plov – the very typical rice, carrot, meat dish that is really, really tasty.
Just to be different, I ordered an interpretation of beshparmak, which usually consists of flat noodles topped with onions, meat, and horse sausage. This version was called “meat, Kazakh-style”, with the meat broth mixed in to form a soup. This was also good, but I thought the Plov was tastier.
And we decided to share a serving of Manty, dumplings with pumpkin, meat and herbs inside. This was made even better by the ladzhan – a chilli side that is often served on the table.
All rounded out by tea, of course. This time tea with lemon 😊
We each paid 1,200 Tenge (less than US$4) for all this food!
Next thing was to head off to explore the Green Bazaar itself. First of all – the whole place is incredibly clean, and looks like it has been organized by a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder! It is immaculate!
Everything has its place – there is the section for dried fruit and nuts and the like
The section for pickled items, where Dennis had to sweet talk the security guard because you are actually not meant to take pictures in the Bazaar. However, because Dennis knows all the vendors there, they allow his guests special privileges 😊
The section for dairy produce – where we were plied with samples of all the different products by this lovely lady who is a friend of Dennis’ wife.
We tried a variety of different sweets – some made from cheese products and condensed milk, some made from grains and condensed milk. All were delicious, but my favourites were those with the more caramel flavours (ie the ones with the condensed milk 😉 )
We tried fresh camel’s milk. Now – this is not the first time I’ve had a camel-milk product. Back when I visited Mongolia, I have the distinct memory of visiting a family and being given a massive hunk of camel’s cheese. It was almost inedible! See, the thing about camel’s milk is that it is a VERY tart/sour taste and is VERY strong. My first sip of the milk here took me right back to that hunk of camel cheese I endeavoured to eat 9 years ago…
We also tried the dried salted curds – again, something I encountered in Mongolia, and again, not my favourite thing to eat in the world (actually, the Mongolia trip is the only trip I’ve ever done where I have lost weight). I don’t exactly remember what it was like in Mongolia, but this one was extremely salty … I don’t think I’ll be buying some for the road, though it does keep incredibly well!
From there we headed over to the meat section, where they use the whole animal – absolutely nothing is wasted.
This included a section specializing in horse-meat (very common here) and particularly horse-meat sausages.
Almost right beside, was the smoked and cured meat section, where we indulged in yet more samples – this time of the dried horse-meat sausage (very tasty!) and a salami that had been made out of horse-meat.
Then there was the dried/smoked fish and caviar section
The spices section
The honey section – Kazakhstan is very proud of its honeys
And the “eastern medicine” section, where you could buy brews to cure all manner of ills, as well as other more exotic things like frogs, snakes and crickets.
I actually tried one of the dried crickets dipped in honey – the vendors were all looking at me so expectantly!
All I can say is thank goodness for the honey! That was lovely, the rest of it really just tasted like dry dust… And yes I was kinda chewing on what felt like wing-bits for a while afterwards…
Our final stop was downstairs to the fresh produce section. This was less nice than upstairs given it was quite dingy and dark – and the produce mostly consisted of root vegetables, herbs and apples. Almaty actually means “apple”, and Kazakhstan is renowned for its apples. They are particularly proud of the Aport apples – which grow to be quite large.
Then to top it all off, I actually had a tomato that tasted like a tomato 😊 Those of you who know me, knows this is one of my ultimate tests of food … and it was delicious!
If you are interested in markets and trying local foods, can definitely recommend Dennis’ Green Bazaar tour with Walking Almaty.
Cost: USD$30 + cost of the meal (~USD$5)
Time: 2 hours