In the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, honoring the dead is an important part of the culture, and one way to connect with the afterlife is through a fried bread called borsok.
Borsok is a regional variation of a fried dough available in a number of countries in Central Asia. Made of flour, water, salt, butter, sugar, yeast, and vegetable or sunflower oil, it’s a simple dish that requires little in the way of money or culinary know-how. But it does require lots of time. Women work the ingredients into dough balls and fry them in a kazan (a wok-like frying pan) to create little golden nuggets. Families and guests eat the fried dough with butter, honey, jam, or a local version of cream cheese.
No special occasion, from weddings to holidays, is complete without tables covered in piles of borsok. But just as important, it’s prepared for devotional purposes, including honoring ancestors, bringing blessings, or as part of funeral rites. When someone dies, it is traditional to prepare borsok every Thursday for a year after their passing, as well as on the 40th day after their death and the one-year anniversary.
According to a story on the BBC, one important part of the process is to make sure that the oil is fragrant. Reasons for this vary, including the belief being that the kazan’s smoke carries the cook’s prayers to heaven and that the aroma attracts or feeds the spirits of the dead. By eating the borsok, the Kyrgyz are symbolically eating for the deceased.