How to cook rainbow trout Kyrgyz style

How to cook rainbow trout Kyrgyz style

So, I had planned to make shashlik. Though I am a pescatarian, it’s a dish I prepare for my family of avid meat-eaters. When I went to the store, they only had one leg of lamb that was large enough to feed us for a week. Hesitating, I continued shopping. I decided to save shashlik for another day when I walked through the seafood section, and the rainbow trout caught my eye.

While fish is a bit more common now in Kyrgyzstan, back in the late ’90s, it was rare unless you went fishing and caught it yourself. There are certainly no national dishes that feature fish. But for me-trout triggers a good memory specific to my experience there.

Many hours into a trip from Kyzyl-Kiya in the south to Bishkek by car (15 hours trip in total), after seeing green valleys, dusty dry foothills, the lake with the reflection of the mountains like a postcard picture, and snow-lined river banks, somewhere high in the mountains where the road runs along the Abla and then the Kara Balta rivers, we stopped for dinner of river trout. Not only was the break welcome, but so was the fish. I hadn’t had any in what seemed like forever.

It’s been many years, and I don’t have the recipe. But, considering the simple, clean ingredients that make up the Kyrgyz recipes, I’ve tried to recreate it, keeping it simple with salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic, coriander or cumin (depending on what you like). Coriander will give the fish that shashlik-like flavor. Cumin should be used sparingly, or it can overpower. You can substitute powdered, but be careful not to add too much. As another alternative, place a couple of sprigs of fresh cilantro (kinza) and onion slices in the cavity.

Skewer the fish or place into a fish grill grate. This depends on what you are comfortable with and what you are grilling on. I don’t have a mangal, so my trusty gas grill served the purpose.

It’s not the same as eating in the dark of night at an outdoor table with other road trippers, and the river rushing sounds below. But it is tasty and takes me back in time. What dish transports you back in time to an iconic moment you had in Kyrgyzstan?


  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Red pepper flakes/crushed to taste
  • Coriander seeds or cumin seeds to taste
  • Skewer or fish grate


  • Clean the fish of scales and clean the cavity. Clean the inside cavity. Rinse and pat dry. (Tip: by it cleaned and prepped from the store.)
  • Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub cut end over surface and cavity of fish.
  • Season outside and cavity with salt, pepper, red pepper.
  • Crush the coriander or cumin in your hand to bring out the flavor. Sprinkle inside and out.
  • Gently skewer the fish to keep it together and allow you to turn it easily.
  • You don’t need oil since the fish has natural oils. But you know your grill and your tastes. Feel free to
  • Add to a hot grill for a few minutes on each side until grilled perfectly.
  • Plate, squeeze fresh lemon on top, and enjoy!

Here is a short video explaining how to cook rainbow trout Kyrgyz style in more detail:

Tracy Riggan

Tracy Riggan

During her two years of teaching middle and high school English at School#1 in Kyzyl-Kiya, Tracy worked to draw community attention to environmental issues. Following Peace Corps, Tracy remained in Kyzyl-Kiya, working for a foreign company making significant investments in the region, welcoming customers to the region with Kyrgyz hospitality, and helping ex-pat employees navigate the local culture. Tracy returned to the US in 1999 and now works in Business Development with IPC, a not for profit trade association for the electronics industry.

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