4635 qarta
Photo: Atlas Obscura

Well, that’s where we’re at today, sharing our own unforgettable culinary travel experiences. But not the ones that make us swoon and salivate. The other ones. You know, the ones that manage to take our breath away at the mere mention of their name.

Discovering the world through your taste buds is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. A country’s cuisine — and its most bizarre meals you just HAVE to try — can teach you more about the local culture and long-held history than a handful of guidebooks combined.

Take a road trip through Central Asia, along the ancient Silk Road, and your eyes will feast on a nearly endless array of historic treasures, like the magnificent Registan of Samarkand and Khiva’s spectacularly colorful Miri-Arab Madrasah. What you won’t find, rather disappointingly, is an immensely enticing cuisine.

Despite the region’s long history of spice trade, local dishes don’t go far beyond the ubiquitous plov (a version of fried rice cooked with sheep’s fat) and lagman (a soupy noodle dish). Unfortunately, the lack of variety may lead a certain traveler (ahem) to be a bit more adventurous than usual, in the hope of eating a dish that actually requires a bit of chewing. Said traveler may even dig right into a plate of meaty goodness before enquiring as to what parts of the animal were used to make the ‘cutlets’. This traveler really should’ve known better!

Much like the Chinese, Central Asians aren’t avid food wasters, and it is from this very historic cultural trait that qarta was derived. This is one of the region’s most bizarre foods, made from the rectum of horses — the section after the intestine but just before the opening — qarta, apparently, takes some form of art to create.

After being thoroughly washed and smoke-dried, the tubular lump of meat (visuals!!) is then thinly sliced and boiled in a delicious vegetable stock and served with a generous handful of dill which, let me tell you, makes all the difference.

What is Qarta?

Qarta is a horse meat dish popular in Kazakh and Kyrgyz culture. It consists of boiled and pan-fried horse rectum; specifically the last section of the digestive tract, not including the sphincter. Qarta is usually served as a side dish in a platter of qazy - a horse rib meat sausage - and with minimal seasoning.

Other methods of cooking Qarta involve either smoking and drying for 24 and 48 hours respectively, or simmering it with salt, green peppers, and dill, according to tasteatlas.

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