In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really a huge fan of fancy restaurants with fancy table settings. Once, I happily ate tasty Honduran beef out of a large, black trash bag in a park in the Bronx. One of my all-time favorite New York meals is served in a parking lot in Astoria. And now, I’ve eaten Kazakh food—prepared by somebody I’ve never met—from a ziplock bag on a sidewalk in Manhattan. And guess what? Sidewalk Kazakh ziplock pilaf is delicious.
Here’s the story: a friend of my fiancé happens to attend law school with a lovely Kazakh-American woman named Aika. Aika’s mother is a Kazakh immigrant who occasionally cooks enormous quantities of Kazakh food. Sometimes, she freezes the leftovers. And on rare occasions, Aika randomly stands on a street in front of her mother’s apartment, and hands out bags of the frozen leftovers to random food bloggers.
Actually, she might have done that only once.
(By the way, do you have any idea how difficult it is to write a post about Kazakh food without making some sort of Borat reference? If I were from Kazakhstan, I would probably hate Borat more than anything. So I’ll try to refrain from making any rude Borat references, but just for the record, I am wearing a banana hammock right now. You’re welcome.)
Aika seemed to be a little bit embarrassed by our encounter on a sunny Friday afternoon. Her Kazakh Mom had made a mountain of Kazakh food on Wednesday night, and Aika was planning to provide us with a full Kazakh feast. Unfortunately, Aika was surprised to discover that most of the food had been eaten during an impromptu party on Thursday, and Aika could only provide us with one small, firm, icy bag filled with Kazakh rice pilaf.
No need for embarrassment, Aika: you handed me a bag of Kazakh food seasoned with dill, and for that, I’ll love you forever. The ziplock pilaf was damned tasty, thanks to a lovely combination of lamb, carrots, chickpeas, a mysterious spice blend imported from Kazakhstan, and dill, which happens to be my favorite seasoning. We carried our ziplock prize home, unloaded the ziplock pilaf onto a plate, popped it into the microwave, and happily chowed down.
You know, it’s funny how sometimes you feel like perfect strangers must be reading your mind. Lamb and rice make me happy. Dill makes me even happier. Thank you, Aika and Kazakh Mom! You made me very excite.
Huge thanks to Aika for feeding us, Mira Ness (a.k.a. Kazakh Mom) for preparing the delicious Kazakh ziplock pilaf, and the always-amazing Sarah Wegmuller for arranging the encounter.