Shkhomchkhantkhups; a Hard-to-spell Russian Soup from Adygea

You have just read the title and probably wondering, “How do people order this soup in restaurants? It must take quite some time learning to pronounce it.” In contrary with the name, this soup is easy to make and the ingredients are quite simple. We will get to this later. As you have probably known or heard before, Russia has many kinds of soup on its traditional cuisine list. The people love to have a bowl of soup as an appetizer and a good way to prepare the stomach for heavy main course. We have talked about borscht and salmon soup here as two of the most popular soups from Russia. Next, we’ll tell you how to make shkhomchkhantkhups – the soup from Adygea that is hard to say but delicious, nevertheless!

Where is Adygea?

The Republic of Adygea is located in the South-West of the Russian Federation, on the left bank of the Kuban River and occupies the central part of the Zakuban plain and the northern slopes of the North-West Caucasus.

Adygea is bordered by the Krasnoarmeyskiy , Dinskoy , Ust-Labinsk , Kurganinsk regions of Krasnodar Krai and the city of Krasnodar – in the north, with the Adler, Lazarevskiy, Khosta districts of Greater Sochi – in the south, Apsheron, Belorechensk, Seversky areas and the territory subordinated to the administration of Goryachiy Klyuch – in the west and Mostovsky, Labinsky and Kurganinsky districts – in the east.

Adygea is rich in forest resources, occupying more than a third of its territory, in the southern part. Of the minerals, there are small reserves of natural gas, large reserves of building materials such as gravel, sand, clay and limestone. Small deposits of gold and ore materials are located in the mountainous part of the republic

Adygea Traditional Cuisine

Over the centuries-old history, Adygs, Shapsugs, Ubykhs – the aborigines of the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus – have developed a peculiar and rich assortment of national dishes.

The culinary art of the people of Adygea has been forming for many centuries. The natural conditions of the region contributed to the fact that they developed, for centuries, a type of economy based on cattle breeding, poultry farming and agriculture. As a result, dishes from natural meat (lamb, beef and poultry) occupy a large portion in the diet of Adygs. Cattle breeding has also become a source for a variety of dairy products, including cheese. Homemade cheese makes it possible to use the dairy product widely in the food. The cooking of cereals and flour products is also a characteristic of the Adygea cuisine.

Here are several popular foods from the region that could be very authentic that you can only find them in Adygea:

  • Wheat dough broth (lepsytenh)
  • Soup with beans and nuts (desholeps)
  • Boiled cold meat (lizhegoge chia)
  • Barbecue in Adygea (lischapap)
  • Fried cheese with egg (kuay chenghe henezhahygheu)
  • Crumpled fresh cheese (kaecin eschityag)
  • Scrambled eggs with sour milk and sour cream (cheneschilibir)
  • Steep corn porridge (natryfpast)
  • Kaymak – milk cream (schetagapstag)

You should notice by now that the names of the dishes from Adygea are indeed unique and quite difficult to be said by foreign tongues.

Table Manner in Adygea

Adygs always differs in moderation of food. So, it would be completely unacceptable and indecent to say that you are hungry. Food craving is considered a serious vice in the region. The custom demands to leave part of the food, even if you do not have enough on your plate. One is not allowed to be picky; to choose or ask for one Adyghe dish and refuse another. But it is customary to treat friends and family in this part of the world. And, God forbid you, to refuse coming to an Adygea house after getting invited since this would offend the host big time.

The kitchen is always attended by the oldest woman in the family or one of the daughters-in-law. They will be in charge to share the food among family members. They always try to cook with a margin, because at any moment guests could come. Traditionally, each dish is served on a separate tripod table – clean, beautiful, simple and convenient.

The Shkhomchkhantkhups

Meat has always been the main, most prestigious and hearty meal in the Adygea cuisine, whether it is an ordinary day or a holiday. Most often it is boiled or fried. There are many recipes to prepare offal: viscera, legs and heads of animals.

The most common method of harvesting meat is curing (or, rather, smoking). Lamb or veal, ham or shoulder blade with rib-sternum, are spread and held in a draft above the smoke from the fire or above the hearth – they are hung up or laid out on large pieces of wood on a netted wooden grid. Meat procured for future use is usually packed for long trips; it can also be cooked and fried at home.

However, the unique soup we are about to discuss here contains no meat at all. This could even be a vegan soup. Let us see the most basic ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup beans
  • 1 cup chestnuts
  • salt to taste
  • water

This is how you prepare the soup:

1. Rinse the beans, soak for 2 hours and boil in the same water until half cooked.

2. Submerge the chestnuts from the outer peel for a few minutes in boiling water, remove from heat and let cool.

3. Remove the second peel and put together with the beans until all cooked.

4. Season with salt and sprinkle with herbs.

That was the most basic recipe. You can improve with cream or milk, if you like and have no diet restrictions with dairy products. Cooking it is not at all difficult, and the benefits of this dish are enormous. Chestnut contains B vitamins, vitamin C, E, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. And it also contains half as much fat, and therefore calories, compared to nuts. Chestnut can be compared with potatoes or rice. The taste and aroma of the fruit is almost neutral, so it is used in the preparation of snacks, soups, salads and even desserts. In Adygea, shkhomchkhantkhups is served hot together with flat cakes called khalyuzh.

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