January 19th, 2015 Sections: Cuisine, Food and Drink
Kattama - a traditional "flat bread" ideally suited to a life on the go.

Kattama – a traditional “flat bread” ideally suited to a life on the go.

When I first arrived to Kyrgyzstan, almost twenty years agi, I was often asked about the differences I noticed between Britain and Kyrgyzstan.  

What people were most interested in was the “big” differences … at that time, they had an impression of life in the West but that had been augmented by an influx of Western influences … especially an increase in the number and range of films and TV shows that had become available since Independence in 1991.

For example, back in 1994 and 1995, the big event of the day was the broadcast of the American soup opera, Santa Barbara.

The series had run in the US for almost ten years, from 1984 until 1993, with over 2000, 60-minute episodes, (apparently 2137 in all), and although it had a success there, it achieved far greater popularity abroad … It was sold to over 40 different countries around the world, including Russia … and as we received, (and still do), Russian broadcasts, that’s how it arrived in Kyrgyzstan.

It was actually the first American program to be broadcast after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  For some reason, however, not all the episodes were broadcast, (only just over 1800 were shown).  More or less, the first and last years were never seen in Russia / Kyrgyzstan, but that didn’t stop its  insidious hypnotic and addictive influence.

I remember noting how people would rush home in the evening to make sure that they would be able to see the latest episode … the streets, cafes and restaurants, were, (while not exactly deserted), extremely quiet, only to liven up once more after the broadcast was over.  Santa Barbara was one of the main topics of conversation for small talk over coffee the next day … and people would ask if I knew what was going to happen next.  (Production had already finished and the series discontinued in the States …  so they assumed that I would “know” who had committed the murder which underlay the whole plot.  They would be amazed when I said that I had no idea … that I had never seen it.

The series gave an impression of life za granitsa – abroad – and fueled the notion of “the good life”; affluence, glamour and luxury; with good jobs, large apartments and, basically, in a land of plenty.  

They aspired to this good and were eager to here examples of what affluence and good living, about going out to restaurants and were interested to hear the smallest details about, for example, my house back in London: How many rooms?!; How much did I earn?; where did I go for holidays?; How many countries had I visited? … and so on.  Remembering that I was just an ordinary school teacher, it really did seem to support the idea was a cornucopia of plenty.

To be honest, however, the differences that I noticed and tried to steer the conversation  towards, were much smaller, more mundane and less glamourous.

The range of fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, or of fruit juices, of different types of bread.

Although, back in Britain, a Bakery might have produced a wide range of breads, basically only a few really sold well,  and the others were seen seen as specialty or novelty foods.  Mass produced, loaves of sliced bread, might have dominated the market but we still produced batons or Soldatskiy (tin loaves) but we had little to match Borsokiy or Lepyoshki or Kattama.

Kattama is a flat bread which makes it ideal for tearing apart with your hands and nigling aray, rtather than cutting it into slices, or chunks, (“doorsteps”), with a knife.

It is one of the few examples of a layered pastry dough in traditional Kyrgyz cuisine and, depending on the chef’s preferences it can be fried in oil or baked in an oven.

It is usually a savoury bread made with onions, but it can also be a sweet bread, laced with cream.  Once again, it depends on the taste of the chef.


Simple ingredients

Gather the ingredients


Flour – 500g;
water – 200ml;
dry yeast – 1 tablespoonful;
salt – 1 teaspoonful;
butter – 100g;
onions – 2-3 medium sized;
vegetable oil for cooking – 3-4 tablespoonfuls.

Serves :4 people.


Step 1.Dissolve the salt in warm water and blend in the yeast and flour, mixing well into a dough.Stand in a warm place for one-and-a-half to two hours to rise.

During this time, roll the dough two or three times.



Prepare the dough



Prepare the “filling”

Step 2.Peel the onions, cut them in half and slice into semicircles.Melt the butter in a frying pan or small saucepan.Fry the finely cut unions in the butter until they are a golden colour.


Step 3.Roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm.Spread the fried onion into an even layer on the surface of the dough.Cover the mixture by rolling the dough …

and then …


Roll out the dough and add the filling


Roll the flavoured dough into  a roulette

Roll the flavoured dough into a roulette

Step 4.… into a roulette, (a roll, like a Swiss Roll), and cut into pieces. Press each of the rolls, into a flat pancake (about 15cm in diameter and 5cm thick)..


Step 5.Pour the vegetable oil into a frying pan and heat to about 60-70° C.Fry each of the lepyoshka in the heated oil on both sides to a toasted crust.Alternatively, they can be placed in the middle of a hot oven, (175° C), for about 20-25 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a flat pancake ready for cooking

Roll out the dough into a flat pancake ready for cooking




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