Due to the nomadic lifestyle of the Kalmyks, traditional baked items and baking methods have been rather simple. Bulsn guir, for example, which is a staple, is baked as follows. A piece of dough is put in a pan with butter and then covered with a lid. Then the pan is put inside a heap of red-hot dung and left until the biscuits are baked. Bortsg, traditional biscuits of various size and shapes, are fried in oil. One of the favourite dishes among the Kalmyks is bulmuk, a spoonful of dough mixed with berries and fried in butter or cream.

Antonina Boskhandjieva, Alexandra Nastaeva, Bortsg

In the beginning of the video Antonina gives a recipe for bortsg, Kalmyk biscuits: Melt a package of margarine in boiling water, then add half a litre of milk, a spoonful of salt, two spoonfuls of sugar and a spoonful of yeast. Mix all these with dough. The dough has to be neither too soft nor too tough. Then cover the dough with a bowl and leave it in a warm room for an hour.

Antonina and her colleague Alexandra make the following types of biscuits.

Tselvg or khavtkha: Round in shape, this biscuit symbolizes the sun. It is pinched around the edges to give the impression of the sun's rays. In the middle the biscuit has one or sometimes several holes. Apart from the sun, this biscuit also can represent a well or a lake. In this case, the border is not pinched.

Jola or moshkmr: This biscuit looks like a helix or a folded, twisted horse lead and symbolizes a long road.

Temyan: It is made in the shape of a camel with two humps.

Khuts and khutsin tolga: This biscuit is made in the shape of a ram's head or a whole ram and symbolizes an increase in the number of livestock.

Kit: This biscuit resembles the duodenum of a horse. The surface is slightly cut with a knife to represent the uneven surface of the intestines. Both ends of the biscuit are connected together.

Togsh: This biscuit symbolizes an increase in livestock.

Shor: It looks like a spear with two sharp ends. The middle of the biscuit is wider.

Mendin belg: In terms of shape, this biscuit resembles a handshake (i.e. two hands).

Shovun: It is made in the shape of a bird.

Khorkha: This biscuit looks like a small ball, and is meant for children. Antonina says that her mother used to make this biscuit with sugar. There is a belief that the bigger and rounder the biscuit, the more children the family will have. Antonina's mother gave birth to 10 children.

Alexandra says that making biscuits is supposed to be a joyful occasion and that Kalmyks usually tell a lot of jokes when doing so. Kalmyk biscuits are fried in sheep's fat.

Antonina mixes sheep's fat with vegetable oil. Biscuits should be fried until they become yellowish in colour. Antonina says that she learnt how to make biscuits from her mother. Now she often makes biscuits for her grandchildren.

When the biscuits are ready, Antonina puts several of them on a plate as an offering to the gods. The biscuits are left on the altar usually for a day and then are given either to the youngest or the oldest member of her family. They cannot be given to strangers or distant relatives. There are about 17 different shapes for biscuits.


Antonina Boskhandjieva, Alexandra Nastaeva, Bortsg