Karaim Cuisine in Lithuania: Savuka to Your Golden Colored Krupnik!


Trakai-based Kybynlar in Lithuania, isn’t an ordinary eatery. Run by a Karaim family, they serve tasty Kibinas, in a Turkish like style. In the establishment along a not so busy road in small town Lithuania, there is language on the wall that apparently only 535 people speak. According to the ethnostatistical data collected in 1997, there were only 257 Karaims living in Lithuania at the time.  


Artuur is a natural storyteller as he tells us about Karaim heritage, history and culture. He teaches us a few words in Karaim, including Tabu (hello) and Savuka (Cheers) as we toasted with our beers and Krupnik….that was before we devoured our Chenach, a stew made with chicken, potatoes, garlic, carrots, garlic and onions. And, in traditional Eastern European style, it was served with a dollip of sour cream. SKANOUSH, he says. Huh? Bon Appetit, of course.
His Story of the History:
During the 600 years that they have lived in Lithuania, this small Turkic people have preserved a strong national consciousness. A rather inward-looking community life, firm moral principles based on the teachings of the Karaim religion, and steadfast adherence to tradition have all contributed to the survival of the people, of their basic characteristics, such as language, customs, and rituals, and ultimately of their national identity. What also helped the Karaims of Lithuania survive under difficult conditions was the tolerance and respect for them expressed during all those centuries not only in the everyday contacts between people but also in the official state documents of various periods.
The still living Karaim language, which belongs to the West Kipchak subgroup of the Turkic family of languages, receives the most attention. It is being studied from several angles – as a language that has preserved rare old forms and words that have disappeared from other languages of the Turkic family and also as one that has borrowed and in its own way adapted some features of vocabulary and syntax from neighboring languages (Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish). According to our host Artuur (like Arthur he says with a smile), Latvian is the closest language in the region.
The dishes are influenced from many regions, including Turkey, Russia, Lithuania and others. We had a soup broth with a pastry, filled with your choice of chicken or beef. They also dished up a yummy beet salad (see above). The Turkish influence in their food comes from their historical connection to the Turks. From a linguistic and ethnogentic point of view, the Karaim people belonged to the oldest Turkish tribes – the Kipchaks. Their connection to Lithuania however dates back as far as 1397. Their religion is based on the Old Testament and th moral foundation of their religion is the Ten Commandments.
The story goes, says our host Artuur, is that the Great Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, brought a few hundred Karaim familes with him from Crimea in the late 1300s and they settled in the Trakai area (where this restaurant is housed), between two castles of The Great Duke, which today is simply Karaim Street. 
Their cuisine, like in Turkey, includes a lot of meat and paste dishes. Most famous is the kybyn, a leavened half moon shaped paste cake stuffed with lamb or beef and baked in an oven. We tried them here, together with a soup, desserts and coffee. Their culture tends to use a lot of herbs and spices, particularly muscat nuts, cinnamon and cloves. They also served Kiubeten (pastry filled with meat) and Canach, which is a soup with a pastry across the top, served with butter.
Like most Eastern European eateries, there’s plenty of beer on tap to choose from, from dark beers and ales to lighter lagers.
Later, he brings us all a shot of Kruptic, which is an alcohol drink in a shot glass that tastes like cinnamon. The drink includes natural roots, herbs, cardimon and cinnamon. Ahhh, down it goes and with it, a whole lotta warmth!

Karaimų 29

Trakai, Lithuania

+370) 528 551 79

 www. kybynlar.lt
Note: the meal was sponsored by the Lithuanian Tourism Board but all opinions expressed are my own.


Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

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