The most important tip I can give you on Turkmenistan local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Turkmenistan, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Turkmenistan
Expect distinctly average Russian cuisine in restaurants. As in Uzbekistan, plov and more central Asian-type fare can be found in markets. If you can find it, try sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, sometimes prepared in a ‘tempura’ style. Meals often start with a soup, as chorba, a meat and vegetable soup. Another national dish is plov, rice with mutton, onions, carrots, spices, raisins, peas or quinces.
Manty are steamed dumplings filled with lamb. Ku’urma is lamb, cooked in its own fat. Ichlekli is a meat and onion pie and gutap is a pie filled with meat, potatoes, spinach and pumpkin. Chocolate is one of the most popular cafes in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Often times people do not know where to go to eat delicious cakes, food, and as well to drink amazing cocktails. So, cafe Chocolate is the place you should go. But if you have never been or heard of this lovely cafe, it is located in front of supermarket Univermag.One of advantages of this café is that you can order food or cake you want and they will bring wherever you ask to.
When finally you decide to go to Chocolate, you will see several cakes and as a result if you have hard time with choosing which one to buy, the strawberry cheesecake is highly recommended. In addition, one of reasons why you should go to this nice place is that it is very quiet cafe where you will not be disturbed by the noise of other people.
What to Drink in Turkmenistan
The legal drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 18, and is strictly enforced. Look out for a range of ‘Turkmenbashi’ labeled vodka, which can be washed down with the range of Russian ‘Baltika’ brand beer. There is a local beer brewery “ZIP” which is popular in Turkmenistan. It will be your best choice, compare to other local brand beers.
Tea is excellent and readily available. Best to err on the side of caution, and stick with bottled water. As in Russia, you may want to specify byehz gah-zah (literally, ‘without gas’ or ‘still; plain’) if you do not like fizzy water. ‘Borjomi’ mineral water from Georgia is available in Ashgabat’s shops. Local people prefer to drink gok chai – green tea, often with dried fruits or herbs, as mint.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.