When I started my food blog, we went through different ideas and thought about the most unthinkable dishes that can be veganized. In my opinion, the craziest idea was to try to reproduce Beshbarmak – national dish of Central Asia.
Kazakh New Year “Nauryz”
Beshbarmak is cooked in Central Asia for big events – for weddings, national holidays and to meet important guests. From March 21 to March 23 Kazakhstan celebrates Nauryz – it is a very important event, symbolizing the New Year.
As a kid I liked this holiday, it seemed to be a very good time to celebrate the new year. At this time, the days begin to noticeably lengthen, it’s getting warm, nature wakes up. Tulips begin to bloom – this is really the atmosphere of a new beginning, a new life. And also, when I was a child, large-scale events were held in the city at Nauryz, where you could fully experience Kazakh hospitality. People were sharing treats at the squares – just for free! Baursak – small fried balls of dough (sweet or savory) was my favorite treat!
Things are changing, the city is growing rapidly and such cute traditional events are becoming more and more commercial in color. This is neither bad nor good – this is just the course of history, same as the very fact, that people’s ideas about healthy food is also changing. I understand that traditions of cooking fatty, oily, meaty foods originated in our area when people led a nomadic lifestyle and it was not possible to consume a lot of vegetables.
But now our conditions have changed, we live in cities and a huge variety of edible plants is available in stores. Our problems have changed also- now we are not horrified by hunger and cold, but mote by heart disease, all sorts of diabetes and other troubles associated with overeating or lack of balance in nutrition. So what to do with all these socially important traditions, if they now harm us? I know, many people can feel this. Traditional food should bring us joy and delight, but it doesn’t!
Many of us find it very difficult to let go of traditions. I’m no exception – the hardest part of going vegan has been dealing with the emotional ties that arise during the holidays. I felt that my life choice separates me from what is dear to me, until I realized that it was not at all about the taste or components of food. Traditions are just symbols, all the attributes of traditions are just symbols with some important meaning.
Beshbarmak is a symbolic dish as well. As I read, it symbolizes the unification of the family. It is served so that it can be conveniently divided among many family members who get together at the dining table for the holidays. The meat was supposed to be cut very finely so that the most respected people – that is, the oldest, elderly people – could easily chew food. After all, this is an amazing manifestation of empathy and care for the most fragile family members!
If I would want to take care of my loved ones, I would definitely offer them food that is not only easy to chew, but also easy to digest, which provides maximum nutritional benefits and boosts energy. Nothing prevents it to be symbolic at the same time!
Classic Beshbarmak is a large platter on which rhombuses of dough are laid out in a layer and then meat and onions are laid out on top. If a lot of guests are expected to come, then a head of a sheep is also prepared. I was witnessing this only once as a child, and it was pretty scary for me. It’s good that I wasn’t the guest of honor! Because a guest of honor was the one who had to divide it between others and eat it. It was a young foreigner that time, and I think he would be very happy if instead of a sheep’s head there was a fragrant, baked cauliflower!
I offer you a low-calorie, low-fat beshbarmak version with a minimum of refined ingredients. Whole wheat dough rhombuses, mushroom topping with fried onions and vegetables baked in spicy gravy. And you know what? If we would talk about the equivalent amount of calories, the vegan version of the dish is not less in protein than the one with meat. Would you guess that? ))
Whole Baked Cauliflower
Idea to try whole baked cauliflower came to me long time ago, so beshbarmak was just an excuse to try it out. I used this recipe as a guide, but I have a couple of suggestions. I think the baking time in the recipe is too exaggerated. Unless you’re a tender/soft cauliflower lover. I would reduce the baking time under the foil to 20 minutes so that the cauliflower retains its structure better. But even overbaked it turned out delicious!
Plant-based food is usually very colorful, so to add some bright colors, I choose to sprinkle the dish with green parsley and baked sweet potato. Other vegetables (like carrots and regular potatoes) would also work. The gravy for baking makes vegetables flavourful and tender. Well baked veggies on their own are always good!
Serve Vegan Beshbarmak while it is hot! This dish is also good to share with family. I hope for those who went plant-based in Kazakhstan this will be positive, loving and warm moral support)
Veganized Beshbarmak (National Dish of Central Asia)
Rhombus of dough
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cups hot water
- 1 tbsp oil
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp oil (for frying)
- 300 g Portobello mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 medium onions
- 1 medium cauliflower (250 g)
- 1 sweet potato or carrot and regular potato (optional)
- 3 tbsp vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp chili peppers
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 pinch thyme
- 1 tbsp parsley
- 2 leaves sage
- 2 tsp potato starch
- ½ tbsp water
- For the gravy: combine all ingredients except water and starch. Boil for 5 minutes, dissolve the starch in cold water and pour into the hot broth, stirring thoroughly. The gravy should thicken.
- Prepare the cabbage. Moisten it liberally with gravy on all sides. Optionally, you can also bake some vegetables on the same tray - sweet potatoes or carrots with regular potatoes.
- Leave some of the gravy to moisten the cabbage and vegetables again throughout baking process. Cover the cabbage with foil and bake at 240'C for 20 to 40 minutes (depending on how soft you want the cabbage to be). Remove the foil after 20-40 minutes. Pour the gravy over the cabbage again and bake for another 30 minutes, until the cabbage is golden brown.
- While the cabbage is baking, make the dough. Mix salt and flour, add boiling water and knead the dough. Grease the dough with oil and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the onion into rings, add oil to the skillet and fry onions until golden brown.
- Place the onions in a separate bowl. Fry the mushrooms in the same skillet. When done, add the minced garlic and remove from heat after 30 seconds.
- Knead the dough again, roll it out and cut it into rhombus. Cook it in vegetable broth, gently dipping the rhombus into the boiling broth and stirring occasionally. You can divide them in two portions, so that they do not stick together. Cooking will take 3-6 minutes.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a separate bowl and return some of the onions to the pan. Send the cooked rhombus of dough into the same skillet and fry lightly, mixing with onions. Just for a couple of minutes.
- Now transfer cooked rhombus of dough to a large platter, top with the sautéed mushrooms and the remaining sautéed onions. Pour some broth on top (you can use the broth, in which the rhombus were cooked, or the gravy in which the vegetables were baked - to your taste). This is how beshbarmak is usually served!
- But sometimes ... If there are many guests, a head of a sheep is also served on the table. It's crazy trying to veganize, uh ... a head of a sheep. But what is the head in the world of plants?
- Look how cauliflower reminds a shape of a brain! Therefore, I suggest complementing the vegan beshbarmak with aromatic, whole baked cauliflower.
- But if you also want to add a little color to the dish, then baked sweet potatoes and some green color (parsley for example) will work! Bon appetit!
Things I use
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