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An introduction to equine cuisine on the steppes of Kazakhstan (+photos)

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"You weren't eating a special horse," Bagdad told me.

"It was wild and only drank clean water and ate good grass."

I think that made me feel better about my first foray into equine cuisine.

The Kazakhs of Central Asia have been eating horse meat for centuries and struggle to understand why so many Westerners baulk at the thought.

Bagdad (a common first name in Kazakhstan) has taken me about 1700 metres up into the Tien Shan (Celestial) Mountains that form a snowy backdrop to the southern city of Almaty.

There's an ice-skating rink here being prepared for the Asian Winter Games.

It sits in the shadow of a giant earth dam. Unusually there is no lake behind this. It's a protective structure designed to contain flash floods caused by breaches of the moraine lakes at the head of the valley.

Nearby is a yurt restaurant. These round tents made of felt were once the homes of nomads who roamed the steppes and alpine meadows of Kazakhstan.

Probably few of the original yurts in the Central Asia steppes had a bar installed, however.

Once we had eaten our horse meat, four Kazakh musicians arrived; the men wearing long velvet coats encrusted with golden embroidery and the lone woman in a white and gold gown with tall pixie hat.

They sang and played melodies that told of fertile pastures, horse racing and, of course, unrequited love.

Plates of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, baskets of fluffy bread and dishes of salads followed.

There was soup too and barbecued lamb and chicken, as well as a platter of unidentifiable cold cuts and some ovals of pale marbled meat that I thought might be chicken.

It wasn't.

"That has a very delicate flavour," I said to Baghad.

"Yes," he replied.

"Horse testicles are very delicious."

Click here for photos.

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