Zelionyj Bazaar – Almaty, Kazakhstan - Gastro Obscura

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Zelionyj Bazaar

This sprawling market is a one-stop shop for traditional Kazakh foods, from mare’s milk to sheep’s head. 

You don’t need to love either food or shopping to understand why the Green Bazaar in Almaty is a local favorite and landmark. This two-story green market, in business since 1875, puts most farmers’ markets to shame, with its wide array of Kazakh delights, ranging from fizzy, alcoholic milk to horse sausage.

Rows of vendors sell meticulously arranged baskets of kurt, smooth balls of a dry, salty cheese made from fermented mare’s or sheep’s milk. The cheesemongers also sell kumis, a lightly alcoholic beverage made with fermented mare’s milk, which they ladle out of buckets into small soup bowls. Dried apricots, raisins, figs, and other fruit and nuts lie like little jewels on trays, next to fresh fruit being pressed on hand-cranked juicers. The smell of freshly cut flowers, spices, and produce lingers as one walks through the bazaar. From salty camel’s milk to fish roe to horseradish condiments, customers are encouraged to have a taste as they peruse the stalls.

The meat selection at the bazaar is extensive, including an entire section dedicated to horsemeat. Here, beneath slabs of hanging meat, butchers prepare and sell varieties of horsemeat sausages, including shuzhuk and qazı, a spicy, garlicky sausage made from horsemeat ribs seasoned and stuffed inside a horse intestine. Sheep’s heads, considered a delicacy, are sold too. On festive occasions, koy bas, a boiled sheep’s head preparation (served cold, with a garnish of onions) is a typical accompaniment to beshbarmak, the popular Kazakh meat-and-noodles dish.

The first iteration of the bazaar was built in 1875, as a stopping point for traveling merchants. Though its newer modern building bears few similarities to the original, the market still serves as a place where cultures and cuisines can mingle. Rows of vendors sell spices, nuts, and dried fruit from across Central Asia, as well as honey and fresh breads. There are even stalls selling kimchi. If you’re still hungry after the generously proffered tasting samples, stop over for tea and noodles at one of the food stalls lining the perimeter. And if you must be a tourist, embroidered Kazakh hats, jackets, and intricately woven slippers are some of the beautiful souvenirs on display.

Know Before You Go

The market is open every day except Monday.

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