After four posts on the acquired tastes of Kyrgyzstan, I thought it might be fun to look at a few of the foods in Kyrgyzstan that are so good, they don’t require any “acquiring” at all. First up, the famous Uighur/Dungan dishes laghman and ganfan and their many variations. Undoubtedly, for many visitors to Kyrgyzstan, one of these two dishes is an immediate favorite. Laghman is the Central Asian derivative of the Chinese lamian, which means noodle. Laghman typically includes bell peppers, diced onions, tomatoes, dill, and a little bit of meat, all piled high on a fresh pile of noodles.
I remember watching a Chinese chef demonstrate how to make noodles during the Beijing Olympics (“Today in Beijing”). The process was fascinating as the noodles are made by repeatedly pulling and folding dough. Little did I know at the time that soon those noodles would become one of my favorite dishes in Kyrgyzstan.
Ganfan is essentially the same as laghman, except that rice is substituted for the noodles. While the noodles can often be a little greasy, the ganfan is typically a bit drier. For the first few months living in Kyrgyzstan, I would always order ganfan when I went to a cafe or restaurant, and Sarah would typically order laghman or plov (see next week’s post). It wasn’t until a friend talked me into trying gyuro ganfan that I discovered that Central Asians have even better ways to prepare these tasty dishes. Gyuro (or boso) means “fried,” and these dishes are a perfect balance of fried, thick Chinese noodles and mouth-watering vegetable toppings (often a few spicy peppers are thrown into the fried version, which in my book makes it even better).