Hearty pies, delicious baked goods and honeyed desserts abound Tatar cuisine, a people whose lineage comes from semi-nomadic clans ethnic to central Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe. Kazan‘s chak-chak museum has cemented the sweet dish as a cultural icon, but there is so much more to Tatar cuisine. Here are 10 dishes you have to try.
Served at celebrations, weddings and festivities, this is probably the most iconic Tatar dessert. There is even a museum in Kazan dedicated to this sweet, sticky delight. Flatbread is rolled up into hazelnut sized balls and then deep fried. The balls are then drenched in honey, and then either assembled into individual portions or stacked similar to a profiterole cake. You can either decorate chak-chak with nuts and dried fruit, or you can add them to the mixture.
Translating to ‘triangle’, echpochmak are triangle pastries stuffed with mince and potatoes. Once the dough has risen and has been stuffed, the corners are folded back slightly so there is a small hole at the top of the pie. Halfway through the baking process, the echpochmak are taken out of the oven and a spoonful of stock or broth is poured into the filling via the hole. This ensures the meat – which is stuffed raw – remains moist and tender and delicious to eat.
Reflective of Tartar nomadic origins, Kazylyk is horse meat sausage. Traditionally cured by air-drying in the steppe sun and wind, it is still most commonly prepared cured, although it can be boiled, baked or fried, and is often spiced with cumin and coriander. Thin slices with pickled sliced onions are served as entrees, and are considered to be a delicacy. The cured version is hard to stuff up, so try it anywhere.
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This is a stuffed sweet and salty, layered cheese pie of sorts that is also brought out for festivities. Layered inside half a pie shell is rice, cottage cheese or quark, minced beef or lamb, boiled egg, and then raisins or mix of dried fruits such as figs, prunes and apricots. Melted butter is poured over the filling before closing the pie, which is then baked. Leave out the mince and you have a dessert.
This is the national dish of the Crimean Tatars and a popular street food across the Russian Federation – testament to how delicious these deep fried turnovers are. Traditionally filled with meat – beef or lamb – and onions, they are now often stuffed with cheese as well. Similar to a South American empanada, they are also made out of unleavened dough. Additionally, you can find them served as an entree.
Not as we know it in the West, Tatar sherbet is a sweet drink made from fruits and honey and turned into a kind of cordial that doesn’t last long, so drink it fresh. It is commonly made with cherries, strawberries and raspberries, as well as raisins and dried apricots.
These are Tatar dumplings made from either spiced lamb, beef, or horse mince. Depending on the region, pumpkin and squash are also added to the filling. Usually boiled or steamed in their own juices, they are served with butter, sour cream or an onion sauce. If served as a street food they can be served plain, with a sprinkling of red pepper powder.
This is another beloved dessert, although you need to be a dab-hand in the kitchen to master this recipe. Honey and sugar is spun into a kind of stringy, hard fairy floss which is then coated in a powder of melted butter and flour to set it, but not before it is shaped into miniature cones. It is served with a cup of hot tea to cut through the sweetness.
Belish is a pie, and you can either devour a small one (vak belish) all to yourself, or share a big one (zur belish) with friends. Hard crusty pastry shells are usually filled with a grain-potato-meat combination and then another strip of pastry is placed on top like a lid. They are usually made with fatty meats such as duck, goose and beef, for their flavour and their tendency to not dry out. If you come across a goose-stuffed belish, don’t pass it up!
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Difficult to pronounce but easy to eat, these warming morsels are a true comfort food. Round flatbreads are loaded up with buttery potatoes or hearty millet porridge and then folded in half and dry-fried on a pan. They can be eaten as an appetiser or a snack.