Taste the Flavors of the Ancient Silk Road
As the Silk Road brought traders, merchants, and travelers to Osh, it also brought their cultures and culinary traditions. The millennia of international visitors - many of whom remained as the basis of the city's 80 ethnicities -- greatly influenced Osh’s cuisine. Each culture left behind a hint of spice, a unique recipe, and a blend of flavors that transformed Osh’s cuisine into a truly multicultural experience. Even the most classic of Kyrgyz dishes tastes different here — traditional nomadic offerings sing with influences and attributes of Uzbek, Tajik, and Uyghur cuisine.
Osh is one of Kyrgyzstan’s great food destinations; locals love this aspect of their culture. To an Osh local, it’s not just about the meal, but about sharing food, friendship, and welcome, too. Discover the best local dishes on a food crawl across the city, where a local will guide you to the tastiest version of Osh’s best dishes. Or cook with a local woman her secret recipe for Osh plov, a beloved Central Asian dish served with a unique twist of flavors that you’ll find only here in Osh. And those beautiful rounds of bread you’ve seen in shop windows and shared over a meal? Learn from a master baker as you make, bake, and mow down on your own lepyoshka in our bread-making course.
You’ll never go hungry in Osh. Use our directory of Osh’s best restaurants and cafes to find tasty eats all over the city. And although the cuisine traditionally tends to be meat-heavy, vegetarians and vegans can still eat well in Osh using our Vegetarian Survival Guide.
Osh's Signature Dishes
There’s scarcely a better way to understand a city than through its food, and in Osh, getting to know the multicultural cuisine is a true pleasure. Be sure to sample a few of these Osh and Kyrgyz specialties while you’re in town. And if you’re a true food lover, sign up for the Osh Foodie Tour for a taste of the region’s most popular dishes.
Also known as devzira plov, this local dish bursts with flavors. Although there are several versions of plov across Central Asia, Osh plov uses a unique blend of ingredients and seasonings. Red rice (devzira) is slow-cooked to perfection with vegetables (yellow carrot and onion), tender meat, and an array of spices. Sided with shakarap, a simple salad of marinated tomato onion, Osh plov is a quintessential Central Asian meal.
Local's Tip: This dish is served at many restaurants, but usually you need to order in advance as it is cooked in large quantities. You can also join a local family on our Plov Journey, where you’ll learn the secrets to a perfect plov. (Traveling vegetarians can also experience the hospitality, flavors, and fun as this cooking class can be conducted entirely vegetarian).
Manti & Maida Manti
Maida manti is a delicious dumpling dish that you’ll only find in the Osh region. Although the dish’s similar cousin, the much larger manti, is popular throughout Kyrgyzstan, maida manti are petite handmade dumplings filled with mashed potato and steamed to the perfect texture. Order a small plate as a snack, or a larger one and you’ll have enough to share with friends. The dish is often served with spiced red onions and sour cream.
Note: While manti is difficult to find prepared vegetarian, maida manti is traditionally prepared free of all animal products (no dairy, eggs, or animal fat), so it’s safe for vegetarians and vegans. Additionally, gök chuchvara are small dumplings filled with spinach-like local greens, which are also vegetarian.
Osh has long prided itself on taking a unique twist on even the most traditional Kyrgyz dishes, as evidenced by the mega-samsas (known locally as Chon Samsa) available across the city. Even the smaller Parmuda Samsa is still a hefty meal. At any size, samsas are flaky dough pastries stuffed with meat and onions. The Osh variety, known as Oshski samsa, are slow-cooked on the side of a tandoor oven. Some are topped with sesame seeds to mark that there are chili peppers inside for that added burst of flavor, but all are delicious. Although most are often prepared with lamb, the potato ones are also flavorful. Samsa make for a hearty snack when eaten hot and fresh from the oven. You can also stock up as you head out on a trek and make sure you've got some great trail food.
Local Tip: Take a samsa-making tour with Osh Travel. Head into the kitchen and learn how the masters roll, stuff, and bake hundreds of these delicious, savory pastries every day.
This tasty grilled meat is better known as kebab in much of the world. No matter what you call it, however, it’s prepared to perfection and usually served with fresh onions and vinegar. Even if you’ve tried this along your travels, it’s always worth sampling again since local marinades vary not only throughout Kyrgyzstan, but among local cooks as well. Often prepared with mutton, shashlyk is usually available with chicken, beef, or goat as well.
Local's Tip: Try some of the city's tastiest shashlyk on the Osh Foodie Tour. On the tour, you'll sample at least four of the best dishes in Osh. Note also that Osh is home to arguably the best shashlyk in the entire country.
Traditional Kyrgyz Dishes
No dish in Kyrgyzstan is quite like beshbarmak, which could easily be considered the national dish. Prepared by Kyrgyz nomads for centuries, mutton is stewed in its own juices for hours before being poured over hand-cut noodles. Eating beshbarmak is all about the blend of flavors, and to best ensure every bite has the perfect proportion of noodles, broth, and meat, it's traditionally eaten with your hands (which explains why the dish translates to “five fingers” in Kyrgyz!).
The hallmark of kuurdak is the dish's well-rounded blend spices and flavors. It's a hearty Kyrgyz meal consisting of fried marinated meat, onions, and potatoes that is particularly popular during the cold winter months.
Hand-pulled noodles combine with a spicy combination of meat, vegetables, and herbs to create a dish that combines the best of Central Asian cuisine. The region's various ethnic groups each bring a unique flair to the dish so it's worth sampling this again and again. In addition to differing herb and meat pairings, these signature noodles come fried, boiled, or as noodle soup. Ganfan contains similar core ingredients served over a bed of rice. And if you like a bit of kick in your food, ask for a side of the delightfully spicy laza, a condiment of red pepper flakes, garlic, and oil.
This tasty traditional Kyrgyz dish is prepared by filling handmade dough with a variety of local and seasonal ingredients, then rolling it into a roulette and cooking it in a special pan. You'll rarely find two versions of oromo that look alike, but it's reliably delicious. The meat-eater version most often includes minced meat and onions while vegetarian versions contain cabbage and carrots. This is particularly delicious when enjoyed with kaimak (local sour cream).
Note: Preparing oromo from scratch can take time. Some restaurants require that you order oromo at least one hour in advance.
Kymyz is Kyrgyzstan's signature drink. Travelers shouldn't leave without sampling this natural beverage made from fermented mare's milk. The tanginess is akin to Turkish ayran and kefir. As such, it's surely an acquired taste for most, is beloved amongst Kyrgyz and can be a revelation for some travelers. Kymyz also has digestive benefits according to locals, and it helps "balance" the digestive heaviness of traditional dishes — meaning you shouldn't sample too much your first time. Learn more about kymyz here.