Библиотека нематериального культурного наследия Республики Башкортостан
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gulnur ishbulatova

Talkan – live food

Talkan is a traditional national dish of many Turkic-speaking peoples, including Bashkirs.Talkan is rightly called a live food, because it refers to healthy food products.
Since ancient times Bashkir nomads have been grinding raw sprouts of wheat, barley, millet, rye or oats to produce talkan.

In the regions of the Trans-Urals it is made from kurmas (roasted grain), and in other areas – from a mixture of different cereals. Basically, the grain is ground on manual millstones.

Therefore, in the houses of all Bashkirs there was a stone hand mill –tirmen, which was passed down from generation to generation. And each man made it himself or ordered it to the master. In our time, of course, there are few such craftsmen left. And such millstones are most often museum exhibits.
History of talkan

Back in the XI century a prominent scientist-turkologist Mahmud al-Kashgari in his famous Turkic dictionary mentions fried flour called «talkan». «Kugurmas, that is, kurmas (roasted grain) is an ancient cereal food of the Bashkirs», – the scientist writes. In those ancient times it was an independent dish. Among the Russians and other Slavic peoples it was oatmeal. Now it is almost forgotten.

In a conversation about talkan it is appropriate to recall that many historians mention the existence of the autumn holiday «Kurmas kuriu» among the southern Bashkirs. The mention of kurmas can also be found in the historical chronicles of the late XIX – early XX century. Kurmas was prepared in the autumn, after the harvest. This was a significant indicator of wealth at that time. Even during the wedding ceremonies hot kurmas was placed on the groom's hand. So the groom was tested for endurance. Later, during the difficult years of the war, people collected spikelets from the fields. And then urya, umas, a kind of thick and hearty soups, were prepared from kurmas. If we keep this in mind, we can say with confidence that kurmas is the main savior of people in the war and post-war years.
Talkan, which is made from kurmas, has always been served at the table during holidays and agricultural rituals: bishektui, kargatui, sabantui, syrgatui, kyakuk syae, weddings. Bashkirs have never forgotten that this is not only a national, but also a very healthy food. Dry talkan was stored in canvas bags and birch bark boxes. Mixed with clarified butter, it could be stored in tubs for a very long time. Therefore, it was used on the road, on hunting, during fasting in the month of Ramadan.

According to legend, light and satisfying flour was used by warriors for food, and thanks to talkan their wounds healed faster. And the women of nomadic tribes, thanks to talkan yet again, had beautiful thick hair and slender figures. Live food – talkan – has many undeniable useful properties. Our ancestors, who did not know the delights of high cooking, were absolutely right to use grain for food, in which all its useful components were preserved.

The technology of cooking talkan

Even in our high-tech time talkan can be made not only in a special production, but also at home. The grain is first washed, dried well, then ground in a hand mill. In modern homes you can also use the usual coffee grinder to make a small amount of talkan. Then it is necessary to sift the flour. Depending on how many times the grain is ground, a mass of different grinding is obtained. Someone likes coarse grinding, someone likes fine grinding. Then boiled water is poured into the flour, homemade butter (fresh or clarified), sugar to taste are added, and balls are made. Sour cream is rarely put. When adding fresh or clarified butter, it is less likely that the prepared product will turn sour. Talkan, like eremsek, is a product of long storage. In our stores you can buy ready-made dry talkan and cook it at home using the same technology.
Today the production of talkan in many areas of the Trans-Urals has become a prestigious occupation. Small business, taking into account the desire of a modern person for a healthy diet, successfully uses the useful properties of this ancient, traditional Bashkir product. There are enterprises for the production of talkan in the Baimaksky, Khaibullinsky, Uchalinsky districts. In the cities of Bashkortostan talkan is presented both on the shelves of specialized stores, offering products for healthy eating, and supermarket chains. In industrial conditions grain is ground in a crusher. Usually talkan manufacturers do not disclose the secrets of the recipe. Manufacturers of a useful product are rightly afraid of competition.
In general, talkan is made throughout the Trans-Urals, in mountain-forest and southern steppe regions. From boiled and dried grain − in the southwest, in the middle Trans-Belaya region and in the northern regions of Bashkortostan. And in some regions of the republic talkan is prepared even in two ways.
Masters of making talkan

The craftswomen who make a real talkan live mainly, of course, in the villages. Many of them even have manual millstones (tirmen). Such craftswomen with their treats from talkan are regular participants of national and ethnic holidays. You can find them in the villages of Baimaksky, Khaibullinsky, Abzelilovsky, Uchalinsky, Zianchurinsky districts. Thanks to these women, who not only know how to cook talkan, but also keep and pass on to the younger generations the ancient recipe of their great-grandmothers, talkan has become a national treasure and a brand of Bashkir cuisine.
In the school of the village of Tubinsky of the Baimaksky district specialized ethno-lessons are held on Saturdays. Here children are not just told about the life of their ancestors and about craftsmen. Here children are taught almost forgotten Bashkir crafts. The genuine interest of the children in what is happening is visible even in the photo.
A resident of the same village, Minnur Akhmetova, shared her recipe for making talkan. Here are some tips from the craftswoman.
·       Fry the grain in a frying pan until it turns red. At the same time make sure that the grain does not burn, otherwise the talkan will be tasteless.
·       Turn the manual tirmen clockwise.
·       The millstones are quite heavy, so turn without hurrying, slowly and smoothly.
Useful properties

There are a lot of useful substances in cereals. Talkan is also no exception. Obtained from sprouted grains, it contains useful trace elements. Regular use of talkan helps with high cholesterol and excess weight, rejuvenates the body, improves the color of skin and hair. Talkan also helps with diabetes, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver and allergies.

Talkan is a very useful, but undeservedly forgotten product of our ancestors.

Photos: F. Khasanova from the village of Verkhneyaikbayevo of the Baimaksky district; residents of the village of Yaratovo of the Baimaksky district.
Video: «Ornament» (2015), «I am learning the Bashkir language» (2016); personal video of Gulnara Khalfina from the village of Tubinsky of the Baimaksky district.
Layout: Rustem Tukhbetov
Author (compiler): G. A. Ishbulatova, 2021