I think it was about 13 years ago when I first had my orientation as a freshman at college in Oklahoma. I remember I went to the school cafeteria with newly-made friends from other countries. I was introduced to this other student, who looked Asian, however, he told me that he was from Kazakhstan. Inside my head I was trying to relate his look with this country Kazakhstan (this shows how great my knowledge of geography was. Shame on me!). For the longest time I thought Kazakh people would look like European. Well, it’s right that Kazakhstan is actually kinda in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Reading the history of the Kazakh people though, I finally knew that approximately one and a half millions Kazakhs live in China. They are the second largest non-Han population in Xinjiang (far west of China).
Kazakhs people are fiercely independent people. They were ruled by Mongol before, and then Russia. It was during Russia’s ruling that many Kazakhs fled to China because they suffered tremendously under Stalin’s oppressive policies of forced collectivization. They finally become an independent republic, however many Kazakh who had fled to China rarely return. This part we don’t know why.
According to the Beyond The Great Wall cookbook by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, the cooking of Kazakhs is a reflection of their traditional lifestyle. Meat, bread, and milk and dairy products are all important elements of the cuisine, as is rice brought in from central China. Food is very seasonally based, and food preservation, through the use of salting and drying, is important, given the long, cod winter season.
Meat soups and stews are at the heart of Kazakh coooking, and most meals are simmered one-pot or one-platter dishes. The Kazakhs also made their noodles by hands as in this recipe; Kazakh noodles with Laghman sauce. The recipe for the noodles and the techniques do not vary much from the noodles I made before: flour, eggs, salt and water. Pretty basic. The noodles can be made into dried form as well. I didn’t try the dried form as I prefer the fresh-made noodles.
Now the terms laghman means noodles with stir-fried lamb and vegetables. Laghman is one of the province in Afghanistan, however, this laghman sauce is not related to that. It is simply a term used by the Uighur people.
This Kazakh noodles really goes well with the laghman sauce. The noodles are actually pulled by hands. In Chinese we called it “La Mien”. It is slightly chewy and the sauce are really hearty and tasty. I also drizzled some black vinegar and it tasted even better. I was glad my first Kazakh dish was a satisfying one 🙂 I gotta thank hubby for “modeling” how to pull the noodles 😉 If he could do it, hey…I’m sure anyone can too.
KAZAKH NOODLES WITH LAGHMAN SAUCE
- KAZAKH NOODLES:
- 3/4 cups all-purpose flour preferably unbleached, plus extra for surfaces
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large eggs
- About 1/2 cup lukewarm water or more
- LAGHMAN SAUCE:
- 1/2 lb boneless lamb or goat
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 large red bell pepper cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 1 large green bell pepper cored, seeded, and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- Black Vinegar -optional for drizzling
At least one hour before you serve the noodles, place the flour, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl and stir to combine them. Add the water in and stir to mix. If the dough is still dry or stiff, mix in a little extra water until you get a smooth non-sticky dough
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface. Flatten each piece under the palms of your hands into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. Use a sharp knife or a metal dough scraper (I use pizza cutter ha! it worked) to cut the rectangles crosswise into strips just under 1/2 inch wide. Cover the dough with a cloth or plastic wrap and let them rest for at least 30 minutes, or for as long as 2 hours if you have time
Dust your work area with some flour. Dust the flour on the dough as well to keep them from sticking.
Pick up a strip of dough and see how it yields and thins with the pressure of your fingers and thumbs, you will find your own technique. Pick up a dough strip and touch both sides of it to the floured surface, then pinch it gently near one end between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, holding it nearer the center with the thumb and index finger of your other hand. You'll be stretching it both by pinching it along its length and by pulling the pinched section gently away from where you're holding it in your other hand
When the strip is 12 to 15 inches long, touch it again to the floured surface to dust it with flour, then lay it to one side of the floured surface to dust it with flour, then lay it to one side of the floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough strips
Bring about 8 cups of water to a vigorous boil. Add the noodles, bring back to a boil, and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 6 minutes
Use a mesh basket or tongs to lift the noodles out into individual serving plate
Put a large pot of water on to aboil
Cut the meat into small pieces, approximately 3/4-inch squares. Have all your seasonings and vegetables ready to stir-fry
Heat a large wok or wide heavy pot over high heat. Add the oil and swirl it around a little. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and meat and stir-fry for about 4 minutes, or until the meat has changed color and the onion is translucent. Add the peppers and stir-fry for 2 minutes.Add the tomatoes and the 2 tsp salt and mix well.
Lower the heat to medium and cook for approximately 7 minutes, until the peppers are soft but still retain shape
Ladle the sauce over the cooked Kazakh noodles. Serve immediately. I love it with black rice vinegar 🙂