National dishes

For a long time Karaim women have been famous as very good housewives and the Karaim kitchen has retaken its traditions up to the present undoubtedly due to their industry. The base of the Karaim kitchen is meat and paste dishes. Lithuanian Karaims have various national dishes. Some of them belong to every day, some of them to the festival occasions; most often they are connected with some religious festival.

The breaking of bride’s cake “Kielinlik”

From every day dishes it should be mentioned long thin noodle soup with meat called tutmač. The housewives used to make noodles at home: after rolling jajma – a big thin paste circle, they used to dry the paste, then made rolls and cut into thin pieces. One of the most famous non-ritual dishes known not only to Karaims is kybyn (pl. kybynlar). It is a leavened paste cake having the form of half-moon and the lamb or beef filling; it is baked in the oven or on the tin. In addition to kybyn, Karaims also bake cheburek, and often make koldunlar (dishes of meat and paste). Both the dishes are oriental, having come to our country together with the Karaims and Tatars. From among purely meat dishes šišlik (a steak) is the most popular. Most often it used to be made from lamb, but beef and veal are also suitable.

Photo by Zinas Kazėnas

The religious festivals also have their specific dishes. For the Feast of Unleavened Bread Karaims make round flat cakes (5-7 cm diameter), called tymbyl. They are made of the highest quality flour, making the paste with cream and butter or butter and eggs. For the Pentecost a special dish katlama is made. It is a curd cake made of seven layers (four leavened paste layers and three – curd layers), symbolizing seven weeks after the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Wedding cakes
“Kijovliuk” and
“Kielinlik”, 1981.

From among sweet dishes, wedding cakes should be mentioned, made from leavened paste with various spices and raisins. They are of two types – round and oblong. The former (kijovliuk) is made at groom’s place, the latter (kielinlik) – at the bride’s home. The most important element of these cakes is a complicated decoration, made of plaits and special baskets, symbolizing roses. The greatest art is to make them so that it would be nicely browned, greatly risen and shrunk, pored inside.

Karaims could not do without a national drink – krupnik. Its name is taken over from the local inhabitants, but the recipes are different. In order to make it, various roots and oriental spices are used – cloves, muscat nuts and others. Krupnik is a strong alcoholic beverage, which is slightly sweet, has a nice golden color and is suitable to kybynlar and other meat dishes. Usually every housewife makes it herself and the taste of the krupnik depends on her own.

About national dishes many songs are sang:

Šaharynda Trochnun
Karajlar boladlar.
Bijlik kiermianliardia
Krupnikni ičiadliar.

Dostluchta boladlar
Siemiz aščechlarba,
Kiorkiajadliar hanuz
Kajnar kybynlarba.

The Karaims safeguard
Trakai famous town,
They taste krupnik
In the Kings Castle.

They live friendly,
Eat fat soup;
Snatch kybyn
Till it is still hot.

(From a song “Kybyn” by Simon Firkovich)