Traditional Cuisine - Beverages

Kalmyk tea, jomba or ustya tsya, is cooked by adding milk, butter, salt, and nutmeg powder to water. In fact, there is more than one way of cooking this tea. It is possible to mix it with fried flour (this tea is called khuursn tsya), mutton (makhta tsya), and finely chopped sheep fat (shuurgta tsya). Such nutritious tea, which resembles soup, not only quenches thirst but also gives extra energy and warmth in the cold. Another popular drink is chigyan, which can be made from the milk of a mare (gunya chigyan), a camel (temyanya chigyan) or a cow (ukrya chigyan). As it is produced from a liquid starter culture and contains more sugar, mare's milk chigyan, also known in Central Asia as kumis, has a higher alcohol content compared with those made from cow's or camel's milk. Targ, another fermented milk drink, is prepared on a slow fire for several hours. It has a thick texture and is sourish by taste. The traditional alcoholic drink yark is made from sheep's milk. Milk vodka can be distilled four times which increases its alcohol content. In the first distillation it is called yark, in the second - arz, in the third - khorz and finally in the fourth - borz.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 27
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sergei Olzeev, Milk vodka
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-03-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Sandzhiev, Artur; Churyumov, Anton
  • ItemOpen Access
    Larisa Shoglyaeva, About Kalmyk tea
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2016-12-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton; Okonova, Altana; Babaev, Andrei
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Erdneeva, How to make milk vodka
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-10-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Bembeev, Aleksandr; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
  • ItemOpen Access
    Andrei Boskhomdzhiev, How to make chigyan
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-11-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Bembeev, Aleksandr; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr
  • ItemOpen Access
    Danil and Sergei Orusovs, About milk vodka and dairy products
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-10-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumov, Anton
    Danil and Sergei talk about milk vodka and dairy products.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Angira Shaburova, About milk vodka and diet in the past
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2016-10-01) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Churyumov, Anton
    Angira says that milk vodka is made from chigyan, which is a kind of fermented milk. Vodka is distilled in two pots connected with a wooden pipe. To render them airtight, the pots are smeared with mud on the outside. The bigger pot is put on a fire and chigyan is poured into it. As the chigyan boils, the steam moves through the pipe to the other pot where it cools down into liquid. Since it is difficult to procure large amounts of milk vodka, in the past relatives would make small quantity of vodka and then contribute it to the collective endeavor such as weddings and other holidays. In the past, Kalmyk diet included bulmug, soups, cooked meat, tea and chigyan.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Viktor Sandzhiev, about milk vodka
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-06-16) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Koldaev, Tseren; Churyumov, Anton
    Viktor talks about Kalmyk vodka distilled from milk. He says he tried it first time in the village of Evdyk. Although it makes the person very drunk, the vodka does not cause a headache.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Rimma Badmaeva, about how to serve tea
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2019-04-22) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Bembeev, Aleksandr; Sandzhiev, Artur
    Rimma talks about whom to first serve first in the morning and the types of danger that women are believed to be exposed to: Every morning, women make tea and put a cup with fresh tea on the altar. After removing their headscarf, women pray and prostrate in front of the altar. The ceremony of sprinkling tea is done as follows. With her left foot inside the house, and her right foot outside, she sprinkles the tea upwards while uttering ‘tsog khayrkhan’. After the ritual, tea is offered either to the oldest male in the family or to the husband. If there are not grown up men around, tea is offered first to the oldest son. If there are not boys around, then the tea is offered to the grandmother. At midnight people open their door to no one, because night is a time of evil spirits. If one has to open the door, it should be done only after hearing three knocks. Evil spirits either knock once or many times. People also try not to let women into their homes at night, because women may bring in pollution or bad spirits that cling on to the bottom of their dress. For this reason women do not go to cemeteries either. In the past, women wore special hair bags for the same reason i.e. to protect their hair from pollution. Women wear earrings so that snakes do not cling to their ears.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tatyana Dzhambinova, About the Kalmyk Tea
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-12-24) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Koldaev, Tseren; Churyumov, Anton
    Tatyana says the following: A lot of research has been done on Kalmyk tea. If you put the pot with the boiling tea in it aside, and stir it 99 times by lifting out a spoonful and then pouring it back into the pot, the tea cools down and it is pleasant to drink. That is how Kalmyks drink tea.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Anna Shurguchinova, Maria Mudzhikova, A Well Wish to the Person Who Made the Tea
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2018-06-10) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Korneev, Gennadiy; Churyumov, Anton; Sandzhiev, Artur
    This is Anna’s story: During matsg odr, a fasting day, Buddhist practitioners take a vow not to eat meat, eggs or fish, as well as not to consume alcohol and other intoxicators. In the old days, when food was simple, practitioners would eat only flat bread or bortsg and drink tea. According to the Buddhist tradition, people who cook food for practitioners can also acquire spiritual merit. In the Kalmyk Buddhist practice special well wishes (yoryal) could be created by lay people as well. Such well-wishes compare food providers with ‘the givers of the Buddhist teachings’ (oglgin ezn). Buddhist practitioners reciprocated for food by uttering well-wishes to the cooks, thus sharing spiritual merit. In this video, Anna thanks the host by saying the following well wish: ‘May my dear niece live a long and fulfilling life. May she be healthy and free of suffering. May she not be afflicted by a cough or flu, or by unhappiness. May all Buddhas and Tsagan Aav, who is the master of land, protect her. May they look after her!’ Maria wishes happiness and prosperity to the host.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Maya Karueva, Kalmyk Tea
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Maya gives a tea recipe and talks about ceremonies, beliefs, and legends related to Kalmyk tea. There is a Kalmyk saying that ‘Although paper is thin, it is the servant of science/ Although tea is liquid, it is the crown of all dishes’. Another saying is that ‘Sorrow has 108 songs’. When tea is boiled, Kalmyks stir it 108 times, saying to themselves, ‘Let nothing bad happen to (me/us)/ Oh, skies, defend (me/us) from the 108 sorrows’. When the tea is ready, it is a Kalmyk custom to pour its first part into a cup and offer it to gods while uttering, ‘I am offering this to Heavens, to Master of Universe Tsagan Aav, to Great Jangar, to Chingis Khan, to earth and ancestors’. The next day that cup should be given to children or elders to drink inside the family. Recipe: Use clean spring water. Boil it, add tea, and boil for another 5 minutes. Add milk, salt, and mix it. Leave to boil for additional 5 minutes. Pour the tea to another pot, add butter, stir 108 times, and add nutmeg. A well-wish uttered before drinking tea is: ‘Let tea and milk be in abundance/ So that both you and we could live long and happily/ Let our work and wishes be fulfilled/ Let us live without wars and illnesses/ Let the sky and Master of Universe Tsagan Aav bless us!’ The Kalmyks believe that melted butter has medicinal properties. It can be used as a skin cream, for example. People also drink tea with butter to regain strength. There is a legend that one day when Chingis Khan was fighting in China, he became thirsty and asked a local family for water. Instead he was given a cup of tea. Kalmyk tea can be mixed with meat. First, tea is cooked as usual. Then cooked sheep’s ribs are added and left to boil for another 10 minutes. The meaty tea is very delicious and nutritious. It is possible to add fried flour or millet to it.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Maria Lidzhigoryaeva, Kalmyk Tea with Fried Flour
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Babaev, Andrei; Kornyakova, Saglara; Babaev, Andrei
    Maria says that fried flour can be added not only to white tea (i.e. tea with milk) but also to black tea as well. She contends that tea mixed with fried flour is very nutritious.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Maria Kamandzhaeva, Tea Ceremony
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumov, Anton; Churyumov, Anton
    Maria talks about Kalmyk tea, its recipe, and related rituals and beliefs. Recipe: Put water into a pan and add tea. When the water boils, add milk and stir. Then add butter and keep on stirring clock-wise. The longer one stirs, the more delicious the tea becomes. Afterwards, add nutmeg, which is cut in small pieces, and stir again. When the tea is ready, sprinkle a spoonful as libation. How to perform a tea sprinkling ritual: Open the door of your house, put your right leg outside (while your left leg is still inside the house) and sprinkle 3 times to the roof as an offering to ancestors and gods. After the sprinkling ritual, the first part of the fresh, hot tea (deezh) has to be poured into a small cup and put either on the altar or at the corner of the table where people eat. This cup with tea should not be left overnight, but given to children to drink. If there are no children around, grown-ups may also drink it. After this ritual, you can enjoy your tea. How to correctly pour tea into a cup: The amount of tea poured into a cup should be neither full up nor half full. Since it is a bad omen to pour tea on the ground, the tea cup should not be full in order to prevent the contents from spilling out. The person who receives a cup of tea should touch the tea with his/her right middle finger and sprinkle 3 times to the air. Tea is first offered to elderly men who utter well-wishes. An example of a well-wish: ‘Let the tea become thick/ And become an offering to the gods/ For us, who partake of it, let it become like an elixir/ Let the sky bestow long years and happiness upon us!’ How to correctly hold a cup: Ordinary people should hold a cup of tea in their right hand with 4 fingers supporting it from underneath; the thumb should support the cup from the side. Lamas, by contrast, should hold a cup with all five fingers from the bottom. Before drinking tea, be it at breakfast, a funeral, a wedding or during holidays, it is customary to utter well-wishes. In the past, tea was made from tea blocks, but today from various tea bags. Tea blocks were kept in special bags made from calf’s skin. The amount that was needed for tea was cut with a knife from the block, and then the block was put back in the bag. What was left from drinking tea was never thrown away. In times of scarcity and hunger, people ate it. Also, since it was women’s duty, girls were taught how to make tea from young age. After their wedding, the first thing that Kalmyk brides did was to cook tea for their husbands’ relatives. After this ritual, the brides were given new names to signify their acceptance to the new family. Kalmyks always offer fresh, hot tea to their guests. According to the old Kalmyk custom, there are 3 things that people should share with others with open heart, including tea, salt, and water. Those who do not follow this custom, put their children at risk (from divine wrath). Kalmyk tea also has medicinal properties. It gives strength and energy not only to people but to animals as well. For example, in winter, sick livestock are treated by giving them black tea to drink. Maria ends her interview with a well-wish as follows: ‘Let tea and milk be always in plenty/ Let all our deeds be fulfilled/ Let all people who drink tea live long/ Let people be healthy around the year/ Let them live happily with their children, families, and livestock/ Let the heavens bless us all!’
  • ItemOpen Access
    Konstantin Naktanov, About Milk or Tea Sprinkling in Kalmyk Culture
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumov, Anton
    Konstantin talks about a ritual of sprinkling tea or milk as an offering to gods and ancestors. He says that in the past people used special spoons to perform this ritual. In his family, Konstantin contends, they regularly perform it. This ritual is done on various occasions. When someone in Konstantin’s family is about to set out on a journey, his mother utters, ‘I offer this to the Master of Universe and all the gods in the sky’ and sprinkles milk or tea into the air to wish that person a safe journey. Konstantin’s grandmother also did so. People also perform this ritual during holidays such as Zul and Tsagan Sar. Some people sprinkle to the roof of their dwelling so that milk/tea does not touch the ground.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Galina Suikieva, How to Distill Milk Vodka
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumov, Anton; Kovaeva, Bair; Churyumov, Anton
    Galina recalls how people made milk vodka in the past. 2 buckets of cow’s milk were left to ferment for a week. Then it was poured into a big pot sitting on a tripod, and a fire was set underneath. The big pot was connected with another smaller pot with a special pipe (tsorg). The vodka vapor in the big pot moved to the small one through this pipe. Before distillation, the pipe was smeared with mud.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Bulyash Chumudova, About Milk Vodka
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira
    Bulyash talks about how she made milk vodka in her youth. 2 buckets of chigyan (sour, fermented milk) was poured into a big pot. Then the pot was covered with the lid. The lid had a small hole for a special pipe called tsorg that connected the pot with another pot, smaller in size. When the chigyan boiled in the big pot, the vodka vapor moved through the pipe to the smaller pot. In order to test it, a small amount of vodka was given to elderly men who sprinkled it into the fire. By the hissing sound it was possible to determine whether the vodka was ready or not. After distillation, a layer of cheese (aarmg) formed inside the big pot. It was given to children to eat. Bulyash reminisces that in 1976 when her son defended his PhD in Mongolian studies, she distilled vodka. She invited women and elderly men for the occasion. The women made butter from chigyan and added the butter to the vodka. Before drinking, the elderly men offered libation to the fire by sprinkling 3 times. In the past, young people were not allowed to consume alcohol.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Bulya Nyudeeva, Milk Vodka
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Terbish, Baasanjav; Okonov, Andzhur
    Bulya reminisces about how people produced milk vodka. 4 buckets of milk were poured into a container and beaten with a stick until it turned into butter. Then the butter was removed, and what was left inside the container was used to distill vodka. Milk vodka was distilled in two pots, one big and the other small, connected with a pipe (tsorg). It was through this pipe that vodka vapor moved from the big pot to the smaller one. Before drinking, the Kalmyks uttered a prayer, ‘Let the beverage of Chingis Khan become an elixir for us’, because it is believed that it was Chingis Khan who ordered that all drank this beverage.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Badma Amulakova, Tea Blocks
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Babaev, Andrei; Kovaeva, Bair; Babaev, Andrei
    Badma talks about tea blocks and how to make Kalmyk tea. In the past, people kept tea in leather bags in the food area of their yurts. Tea came from China and it looked like pressed blocks with a special stamp on it called ‘tavn khurgn’ (five fingers). In the Soviet period tea blocks came from Georgia. Traditionally, the Kalmyks did not chop tea blocks with an axe but cut with a knife. Cut into small pieces, tea leaves were kept in special leather bags. In the past, Kalmyks mixed their tea with ‘mayn us’ (milk of a one-hump camel) and nutmeg. When tea boiled it was stirred 108 times by lifting a large spoonful of tea and pouring it to the pan. In this way tea becomes oxygenized and does not taste sour. After drinking, tea leaves were collected, dried, and re-used. The poor made tea from the same leaves up to three times.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Zurgada Antonova, About Milk Vodka
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumova, Elvira
    Zurgada reminisces about her childhood: how she looked after calves, what children did in the household, what milk products people ate. She also talks about how people made vodka from milk. When the Kalmyks lived in nomadic camps, women woke up early in the morning. They milked their cows and wrapped the bucket with milk in a winter coat. When the grown-ups went to drive the cows out to the pasture, children looked after the calves so that they did not suckle their mothers. Children also collected cow dung (args) used as fuel. From her early age Zurgada helped her paternal uncle make butter. She witnessed how grown-ups distilled vodka from milk. To make butter, people poured chigyan (fermented cow’s milk) into a special wooden container that had a long stick to beat butter. Since Zurgada was too small to reach the upper end of the stick, she was put on a chair. Zurgada would lift and push down the stick until the grown-ups said that the butter was ready. The liquid that was left afterwards was used to produce vodka. Vodka was usually distilled in the afternoon when the weather is cooler. For this were used 2 pots connected with a pipe. All space (between the lid and the pot, etc.) was smeared with mud in order to keep the pots hermetically sealed and prevent the steam from escaping. The mud was mixed with cow’s dung to make it crack-proof. The big pot, where chigyan boiled, was put on a tripod with fire underneath. The vodka vapor from this hot pot moved through the pipe to the smaller pot. The amount of chigyan used for distillation was approximately 3 liters. In the beginning, the big pot was put on a strong fire. When the chigyan boiled, the fire was turned down. In order to test vodka, people used a special stick wrapped in camel’s wool. The stick was pushed through the second hole in the small pot so that the camel’s wool absorbed vodka. Vodka from the first distillation is called arz. When arz is distilled again, it turns into khorz. When vodka was ready, a sprinkle was offered to goddess Okn Tengri. After that, people said well-wishes and drank it. Liquid left from distillation was called bozo. Once cooled down, it turned into a mass and was used to make aadmg cheese. Aadmg cheese could be processed further into eedmg cheese. Other milk products made from cheese are shuurmg (dried cheese that was kept in a bag) and khurs.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tatyana Matsakova, About Kalmyk Tea
    (2018-03-31) Terbish, Baasanjav; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumova, Elvira; Churyumov, Anton
    Tatyana gives a tea recipe and talks about tea offering rituals. She says that people make Kalmyk tea on all important occasions: during holidays (Zul and Tsagan sar), when sending their children off to school, when children return home, when a new bride is brought home, when a daughter is given away in marriage, when a child is born, when a person dies, etc. In order to make Kalmyk tea, first boil water, add tea, salt, milk, and stir 99 times. Then say a prayer, ‘To the earth on which we live, to ancestors and all gods’, take a spoonful of the freshly made tea with your right hand, open the door, and sprinkle the tea as an offering to your ancestors, the sky, and gods. It is also important to put a tea offering in a cup (deezh) on your altar. Only children of the family that performs this ritual are allowed drink this tea offering later. It should not be given to the elderly.