Tradition of making “et aiaklak” (Karaim meat pie). Experience of Karaims of Melitopol

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Tradition of making “et aiaklak” (Karaim meat pie). Experience of Karaims of Melitopol

The main peculiarity of Karaim (Karaite) cuisine is the combination of different types of lamb with pastry. For Karaite pies, puff pastry was made, stuffed with raw lamb. Meat must be chopped. In rich families, pies’ filling was made only of meat, in poor families - with the addition of potatoes. To prepare pastry, they used tail fat. Karaim meat pies were always crescent-shaped with curved edges, and on their surface were made two small holes in which lamb broth was poured into. Pies were cooked on a fire (tandoor) and covered with a caldron, on which coal was placed. Later, they were cooked on a special grill with charcoal. Today electric and gas ovens are used.

Pies’ pastry was crispy, and stuffing was juicy. Ritual of serving Karaite pies played an important role. At dinner time a family gathered, and a woman of a house placed ready pies on the table. A man of a house said a prayer full of gratitude for "bread-salt" and a holy action began: a host took a pie and tasted it. "Yes, the lamb is cooked" - he nodded to a hostess. He gave another pie to an elder of a family or a guest. Having tried it, a person also nodded. Then they gave pies to children. They ate, expressing admiration and gratitude. When they leave the table, they kissed bread, placed it on their forehead three times, with the words: "May God bless" (in Karaite language: “Tanry berakha bersyn!”).

The Crimean Karaites (Qarays), one of the smallest ethnic groups in the world, remained faithful through the centuries to their national cuisine with its ancient traditions, dating back to the Khazar period. Karaims great favour to national dishes is explained not only by its gustatory qualities, but also by the national tradition that has been reflected in the proverb: "I will not eat it the food, which my dad does not eat" (in Karaite language: "Babam asham ashny men de asham"). Recipes of Karaite dishes, typical for cattlemen – nomads and farmers, were spread by word of mouth, from generation to generation, have survived to this day. Cooking art has always been respected by Karaites. Cooking professions were reflected in the last names: Pastav (a cook), Ekmekchi (a baker) and others.

Today about the national cuisine of Karaims is known much more than about the folk. In the Karaims historical territory in Crimea, Karaims lamb pies (et aiaklak) were famed. Until the 30s of the last century, Karaims pies were made in all dining rooms, cafes and restaurants of the Crimean peninsula. In Lithuania (Trakai), where from the XIVth century large Karaite diaspora has been living, these pies were called "kibinai". Karaites settled in Melitopol in the middle of the nineteenth century. This was facilitated by the Crimean War (1853-1856), when Karaites left their homes in Crimea and moved to the mainland. Over time, local people got to know Karaite cuisine. Today, Karaite pies with meat are the best known dish and culinary visiting card of Melitopol Karaites and other Karaite communities of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

Despite the popularity of Karaite cuisine, its recipes have been collected systematically only recently. The inventors were the elders of Karaite communities: T. Mangubi, O. Sapak, S. Bakkal, Z. Gammal, T. Telal, Zh. Sinani, E. Sikazan, M. Hafuz, and H. Yalpachyk.

An important aspect of Melitopol national-cultural Karaite association "Jamaat" work is the preservation of intangible cultural heritage of Karaites, including recipes of their national cuisine. National Karaite holidays - Kynysh ("Pie Day") and Orak Toiiu ("Harvest festival") regularly take place in the ethno-cultural Karaite center "Kale" and the Karaite cuisine cafe "Chyr-Chyr" in Melitopol; master classes on making Karaite pies, city ​​and regional cultural events with tasting and popularization of Karaite cuisine are held. A representative of Melitopol Karaite community, Associate Professor Olena Arabadzhy, prepared a number of scientific publications on features of Karaite national cuisine and preservation of intangible Karaites cultural heritage. The obtained results were approbated in 2015-2018 at scientific and practical conferences in the cities of Kyiv, Dnipro, Zaporozhia, Melitopol, Sofia (the Republic of Bulgaria). In 2001, this element was inscribed on the regional list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In April 2018, the Melitopol Department of Culture organized Interregional Seminar-Workshop "Studying, Popularization and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Region: the Experience of Melitopol region", where the authentic recipe of Karaite pies was presented and a master class on their making was held.

Melitopol national-cultural Karaite Association "Jamaat" and the ethnographic Karaite center "Kale" plan to continue studying features of Karaite national cuisine and popularize it.


Melitopol – a city-centre of Melitopol district in Zaporizhia oblast

Area: 49.66 sq. km.

Population: 153585 people

Population density: 3093 / sq. km

Driving distance from Kyiv to Melitopol: 683 km

Distance from Kyiv to Melitopol by train: 760km

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