Kefir is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucausus Mountains and is very good for you. It’s made from sheep, cow, or goat’s milk and kefir grains, which are a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). If you are a fellow west coast hippy, think of kefir as a dairy kombucha. If you’re unfamiliar with SCOBYs, don’t look up anymore information because it’s kind of horrifying. Just know that kefir is full of a lot of nutritional goodness including:
- Glucosamine, which helps joints
- Enzymes that boost your immune system
- Probiotics, which aid digestion
- Biotin, which is apparently a B vitamin that helps your body absorb other B vitamins. How meta!
Kefir is not to be confused with Kumis, the national Kazakh drink of fermented mare’s milk. Also referred to as “milk champagne,” kumis is similar to kefir but apparently much more difficult to swallow. Baby steps.
Some people just naturally like the taste of kefir by itself. I am not one of those people.
The first time I bought a small carton of kefir, I poured myself a glass and hated it so much after a few sips that I threw the rest out. But I was set on forcing myself to like it because there’s no kombucha here and it feels foolish to not take advantage of something that is so easily accessible with so many health benefits. These types of items are few and far between in Astana.
I will not be drinking plain glasses of kefir anytime soon but I’m now at the point of going through 1L a week via the following methods:
- Smoothies. Other than a bike, the best purchase I’ve made here is buying a Magic Bullet equivalent. It smells like it’s burning every time I use it but gets the job done. My go-to smoothie recipe here is: kefir + frozen mixed berries* + pomegranate juice + a banana. It reminds me of the magical summer of Dairy Queen Puckerberry Blizzards (RIP).
- Frozen berries. Pour kefir over frozen berries, leave for ten minutes, then eat! Be warned that this is not a good breakfast if you’re in a rush and have sensitive teeth. Some people also pour it over nuts and dried fruit or cereal.
- Scrambled eggs. Kefir instead of milk.
- Dumplings. Kefir as sour cream substitute.
*Sometimes bags of frozen berries here include cherries and small plums with their pits still in and you don’t notice until you take a sip of your smoothie and end up with a mouth full of pit grounds.