Sometimes the most interesting cooking is found in the most unlikely places, as our writer discovers on a road trip in the country’s vast wild west
I thought I knew Kazakhstan. I’d been to Pavlodar, in the north-east, for its Russian cafes and its theatre named after Anton Chekhov, and I’d explored Turkestan, in the far south, with its Timurid architecture to rival the turquoise-tiled mosques of neighbouring Uzbekistan. I’d spent time in industrial Karaganda, in the vast central steppe, checking into a hotel built for Soviet cosmonauts. In the former capital, Almaty, I rented a flat and spent days exploring the city’s bazaars. Then, last autumn, deep in the far west, in a landscape as otherworldly as the moon, I realised I didn’t know Kazakhstan at all.