/ Expedition food; ideas and recommedations

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Tom F Harding on 23 May 2017

A group of 8 of us are heading out to Kyrgyzstan for a month at the end of the summer and we are currently sorting out food. We will be buying most of the food in the capital and wont be able to resupply once we reach our base camp. We are taking a few freeze dried meals and a few home comforts but does anyone have any good recipe ideas. I'm learning to make flat bread and various other bits and pieces but a month of rice, cheese and powdered eggs is a little unappealing...

Roberttaylor - on 23 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:
Hi Tom,

Where are you going?

In Bishkek you can anything you want r.e. ingredients; the market is the best place to go. A huge bag of onions, loads of garlic and a good selection of spices is always a good start as well as lots of carbs and a good amount of olive and vegetable oil. Buyer beware; we bought some pasta there once (a massive bag of it) that turned out to be totally inedible. We tried soaking it, frying it, adding salt, always turned to an inedible gloop. Noodles, rice and the like seem to have been fine though, from recent experience. Some tins of chopped tomatoes never go amiss in addition to fresh veg. Watermelon are really cheap and readily available, get a few and take them to BC. Chroizo/dried meats keep for a long time and add a lot of flavour once fried. If you can get hold of donkeys/horses to help carry your kit to BC so much so the better.

I like cooking on a petrol stove rather than gas. It's worth buying a big, hefty pot or two once out there and making sure you have a couple of wooden spoons and a decent chopping board, it makes cooking proper food so much easier. Said hefty pots make a good present to your driver/anyone who has given you a decent amount of help in any way btw.

It's definitely worth taking some freeze dried meals for up high, as this saves carrying cooking gear more complex than a stove and pan above BC. It also saves cleaning and faff.

A word of caution, beetroot kept turning my sh*t blue and I lost 7kg over three weeks so perhaps I'm not the best qualified to give advice! Bring some metronidazole and some ciprofloxacin, immodium too.

I hope that helps!

Just a thought, last time I was there I stayed in a village and befriended some local kids (probably 9-12yo). I wished at the time that I'd had something to give them (and their parents) to say thanks for a meal they gave me and for putting me up under an awning. If I go again I'll buy some kids books in Russian/Kyrgyz, a colouring book or two, some pencils/pens from the market before I leave the city. I was in contact with some folk who were looking to go to that area this summer and was set to send some things out with them but they went elsewhere instead. I'd avoid giving similar kids sweets, as you don't know how often they see a dentist.

Have a great time and enjoy the experience.

Post edited at 19:38
dunnyg - on 23 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:

You can get dried beans. Making a chili is a solid rest day activity. Carrying water melons sounds like suffering to me, but i bet they tasted good. You could make some date based 'healthy' energy bars at base camp to kill time (or just eat them if you cant be bothered).

Big pan and spoon are a good shout. Enjoy!
Damo on 23 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:
The market in Bishkek is certainly amazing, worth a visit even if you don't need food. If you have time I'd recommend going one day, buying a few things you think you need, take them back to your hotel and test cooking and eating them, then going back the next day and buying what you now know you want. This helps avoid the Giant Bag of Inedible Gloop situation that Robert described, though probably not the blue sh*ts.

It's also good strategy for packaged foods, like tinned fish etc because pretty much everything is in Russian and many things don't even look familiar - unlike in South American countries, for example. While the market has lots of dried goods and the restaurants and cafes of Bishkek are quite good, the packaged foods suitable for expeditions we found a bit of a challenge. There were some western goods available, but not a lot, and a lot of the local grocery items were a bit of a mystery. You didn't know if you were buying a block of chocolate or a block of lard, and you can only open so many packets in the supermarket before someone comes and shouts at you in Russian.

So I'd definitely bring stuff from home, not just gels and freeze drieds. Lots of people doing their first expeditions, where they are self supporting and doing their own cooking etc, think they'll cook more than they do, so buy bulk pasta, rice, veges, fruit, etc and much of it never gets eaten. Altitude and all the other challenges make cooking a hassle, so the simpler and quicker you can make the process the better. eg. Couscous is quicker than pasta, which is quicker than rice.

You may also not all be in BC or other camps at one time so making huge group dinners is not practical. You end up eating a lot of biscuits, drinking tea and living on snacks. It's only three weeks and your mum's not watching.

Keep in mind that low altitudes in Kyrgyzstan, particularly Bishkek, can get bloody hot in summer - we had 38C for several days - so chocolate will melt in your duffels and veges and fruit might wilt or go off. Forget fresh meat.

Don't pack bulk foods in huge bags - divide it up - in case your 40 year old Russian van/donkey breaks down 20km short of BC and you have to carry everything the last bit yourself.

Personally I wouldn't give a way pens or similar, as Robert suggested, even though it's a nice thought. It caused havoc in Nepal that we are still facing today. Damn kids, with their learning and their reading and writing! Something that might be good if you can afford it is a modern version of a Polaroid camera. Kids love seeing themselves on the screen of your digital camera - then you have to drag it away from them. Take a group shot of their family, as they may never have another one.
Post edited at 22:44
Roberttaylor - on 24 May 2017
In reply to Damo:

Funnily enough one of the things I was going to send to that family was a print of a photo I took of the kids and their grandfather. Definitely agree, a digital camera provided a good hour of entertainment for us all and really helped bridge the language barrier.
CliffPowys on 24 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:

I am also going with a group of eight and have done a lot of work on this. We have decided to take freeze-dried meals for advanced camps. We will bring these with us. For base camp we will be using home-dried meals which will come with me from Australia. They will be supplemented with pasta and other locally bought stuff.

If you are interested in the details, then I can email them to your website email address if you wish.
ebdon on 24 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:
We bought a load of tinned meat in bishkek couldnt read the russian lables and i think it was dog food!

Also loads of fruit and veg lasts for weeks if youre driving in and weight isnt an issue.
The same goes for eggs.

We wrote quite a detailed report with generally logistical stuff (it was a bmc funded trip) pm me if you want to have a copy
Post edited at 11:11
Tom F Harding on 26 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:

Thanks everyone for taking the time to write such complete replies

Funny you mentioned the pasta, you're not the first to bring up its interesting properties for in-edibility - I guess Italian cooking hasn't reached Central Asia yet. We have a few mules to carry gear and supplies in but watermelons might be going a bit far. We have an agent so hopefully they can steer us away from the dog food... Thanks for tip about large group meals, we will have a big gas bottle and cooker but I can imagine it turns into a pain.
Trangia on 26 May 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:

Take plenty of treats like boiled sweets, toffees, mints etc.

The other thing we craved (on an expedition to the Garhwal Himalaya) was fresh fruit and veg. Both were very difficult if not impossible to get (and keep fresh), so we took tinned ones, particularly tinned peaches which were very popular. We wished we had taken more. Weight is a problem, but will you have any porters?

Tomato puree is good for spicing up rice dishes.

Freeze dried peas rehydrated best.
honzaplocek - on 17 Jun 2017
In reply to Tom F Harding:

Hi guys, I just found this topic while searching whether couscous or an alternative to it, with no need of boiling, is available in Bishkek (bags with the stuff can be labeled in cyrillic, doesnt matter, we had russian language at school as compulsory).

Thanks a lot for reply and I hope that I havent disturbed any forum rules by posting the question here instead of making a new topic..

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