Traveling in Kyrgyzstan as a vegetarian
Being a vegetarian can either be super easy or a pain in the easy. When it comes to Kyrgyzstan, it’s the latter. Their diet consists of a lot of meat and even their most famous dish ‘plov’ is cooked in mutton oil. Still, it’s not impossible to be a vegetarian in Kyrgyzstan. You just have to prepare yourself and know that there won’t be a lot of vegetarian options, or sometimes at all, and that you might have to accept that the so-called “vegetarian” soup you got will have chunks of meat in it. There’s a few dishes though that you might be able to get vegetarian, such as:
Probably one of the most famous dishes in the whole Central Asia, laghman consists of pulled noodles, vegetables and usually meat. But most restaurants can make it vegetarian, if you just ask them without meat (say “bies miyasa”, without meat). Do be prepared that you might still get some pieces of meat in your laghman. It happened to me several times and even though it’s annoying, you just gotta accept that the vegetarian scene isn’t really big here and that it’s very strange and foreign for them that someone doesn’t want to be served meat.
My favorite vegetarian dish, oromo is a steamed pie that’s usually filled with different types of vegetables such as carrots and cabbage. But they also have a meat version of it, so make sure that you order the vegetarian oromo. It’s quite filling too and really delicious, but it can get a bit tricky to find oromo. Unlike laghman, you might have to search for a specific place that serves oromo.
Karakol’s most famous dish would probably be Ashlan-Fu. It’s a spicy and cold noodle soup with a vinegar chili sauce. It’s usually vegetarian, although the second time I ordered it, I found some suspicious chunks of meat in it, although I specifically said without meat. But hey, it’s Kyrgyzstan we’re talking about!
Cook it yourself
If you are very picky with food, you might have to consider cooking your own food. Vegetables and other food supplies are very affordable, so if you’re staying somewhere where you can cook your own food, I highly recommend this. They have a lot of lentils and beans in the market which is great for vegetarians. I was often very tired and didn’t get the nutrition I needed, so I just had to cook the food by myself. That’s the thing about traveling in Kyrgyzstan as a vegetarian – you need to be careful so you get all the protein and vitamins you need. Otherwise, you won’t have the strength to do all the incredible treks you can do in Kyrgyzstan. So do know that there are vegetarian options for you in Kyrgyzstan, but it does get hard sometimes. Luckily, the country is so beautiful that it makes up for it in that department.