Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, is considered the Islamic capital of Russia. The majority of the population in Kazan are muslims, consequently the cuisine is significantly different from Central Russia. Don’t expect to feast on pork ribs, but do look forward to exploring the delicious halal dishes Tatar cuisine has to offer. Here is our list of 8 dishes not to miss in Kazan.
Chuk-Chuk — a traditional Tatar treat is literally translated as “just a little bit” from tatar. This unique name came around from the old tradition to cook it only on special occasions and split it into tiny portions to have enough for everyone. Today chuk-chuk is synonymous with hospitality in the region as it is most likely to be the first thing you will be offered as a guest in any Tatar home.
Chuk-chuk is made of top quality wheat flour, raw eggs and honey. Flatbread is rolled up into hazelnut sized balls, deep fried and then drenched in honey.
Not only would genuine chuk-chuk make a great souvenir to bring back home from your visit, you would not have to visit someone’s home to try it. Served in most restaurants and cafes, chuk-chuk is best paired with milk or even better — Tatar tea, it’s a must try!
Exclusively hand made, this dessert will melt in your mouth a-la cotton candy. It’s delicate and quickly loses its form if not refrigerated, so if you are lucky enough to stumble upon this delicate creation, do yourself a favour and eat it right there and then. Talkysh Kaleve is trickier to hunt down than Chuk-Chuk even at a restaurant, but it’s more than worth finding.
A mouthwatering triangle pastry is similar to the Russian Kurnik pie, stuffed with onions, potatoes, chicken and baked in shortbread or yeast dough. Unlike its Russian brother, Echpochmak is made from yeast free dough and has a hearty beef stuffing (some recipes also call for cabbage). An authentic restaurant experience of having Echpochmak will feel homey and rustic because they mostly serve it with hot beef broth on the side.
Another Kurnik relative: shortbread based, open faced (unlike Kurnik) and bursting with tender, juicy chicken Elesh is also commonly served with hot meat broth. The pie makes an excellent lunch and a lovely dinner, it will warm your body and soul with the authentic Tatar flavour.
You probably noticed by now that Tatar cuisine has many variations of pies. We have already mentioned several savoury pies and now over to Gubadia — savoury and sweet at the same time. Layered inside half a pie shell is rice, cottage cheese or quark, minced beef or lamb, boiled egg, and then raisins or mix of dried fruits such as figs, prunes and apricots. All that goodness topped up with butter and served warm, to keep the butter nice and melted.
Tokmach is essentially broth with some homemade noodles. It sounds simple, but the ritual of having it takes care of the “wow effect”. The broth and the noodles are served in a bowl, and the meat along with veggies like onions, carrots and potatoes are served on a separate platter.
Then everyone assembles their own soup from those ingredients on the side adding them to the broth in very specific order: first the vegetables and the meat on top.
Don’t forget the best accompaniment for all the Tatar baked goods, the exquisite tender and calming Tatar tea. A mix of green and black tea with camomile, mint, thyme and sage is topped up with milk and is perfect for both the savoury and sweet treats listed above.