Traditional Kalmyk cuisine consists mainly of meat and dairy products, which reflects the nomadic heritage and lifestyle of the Kalmyks. Such a high-calorie and high-protein diet was suited for labour-intensive existence in the harsh environment of the Kalmyk steppe. Everyday meals in the traditional setting were rather unvarying and repetitive. The day started with tea drinking supplemented with fried, boiled or steamed traditional cookies (boortsg, guir, tselvg) served with clotted cream, butter and other dairy products. Tea drinking could be repeated throughout the day, but the evening meal usually included meat dishes.
The diet of today’s Kalmyks, however, is richer, including fish and other dishes borrowed not only from their immediate neighbours - the Russians, various nationalities of the Caucasus, the Tatars, etc. – but also from far away places including Europe.
In Kalmykia, tea drinking or food sharing is not just about eating but it involves various rituals and practices that reflect the cosmology, beliefs and social organisation of the Kalmyks. For example, during an evening meal various parts of cooked mutton are offered to various family members depending on their age, gender and social status.
Besides its nutritional qualities, food is also used in a medicinal context. Mutton soup with onion, for example, is believed not only to have energy boosting quality but is also used as a remedy for a cold and other respiratory diseases.
On this page you can watch videos of Kalmyks preparing traditional dishes and sharing recipes, table etiquettes, stories and legends about various food stuffs.