Cook it Yourself: Almaty and Astana's Best Food Stores
Kazakhstan is home to more than 140 nationalities, and one of the perks of living in such a multicultural community is the food. The country offers lots of different cuisines from varying traditions, using different ingredients and appealing to different tastes. The trick is to find those delicacies in a country where you don't know anyone or the local stores.
Sure, you can go out to eat. Both Almaty and Astana offer a broad range of restaurants: Kazakh, European, Japanese, Italian and more. But some days, you just want to stay in and cook. Sometimes, you want to open the fridge, sharpen the cleaver – or just get out the corkscrew – and create something on your own.
So EdgeKz has reviewed the five best supermarkets in Almaty and Astana to help you know where to find the freshest and most diverse selection of items to prepare your own comfort food.
Supermarkets and food stores in Kazakhstan run the gamut from ultra-trendy to traditional bazaars. But there are a few commonalities that are likely different from what you are used to. You'll need to learn to bag your own groceries, few supermarkets have public restrooms and you'll need to stash your bags in a locker before you can start to browse. Now, let's go food shopping.
Address: 15 Gogol Street
Phone: +7 (727) 230 26 24
Hours: Daily 10 am – 9 pm
Interfood Supermarket is on Gogol Street in Almaty about a five-minute walk from the 28 Panfilov Heroes Park. Before even perusing the food selection, you'll be impressed by Interfood's fashionable interior, automated lockers and modern food stalls. But you've come for the food, and when it comes to imports, Interfood doesn't disappoint. The store offers a wide range of affordable wines as well as European imported goods, such as Dutch smoked cheeses, Italian sausages and marinated and pickled foods like German mushrooms and dill pickles. From slightly farther afield are spicy Thai and Indian seasonings. Pastries are baked daily and are always fresh, and the staff is helpful and available for customers. Interfood also accepts credit cards, which is a huge advantage for expats and visitors in a country where cash still predominates. For international visitors, Interfood provides a taste of home. "When I feel like having something national (Kazakh), I can go anywhere I want in Almaty. But if I feel like I need something from overseas or Europe, I go to Interfood," said Japanese-born Kiri, a 27-year-old professional photographer from Almaty. Interfood has three more outlets in Almaty.
Address: Micro district Zhetysu-3, Unit 1 G
Phone: + 7 (727) 326 91 22
Hours: Open 24 hours
Magnum Cash and Carry's name says it all. Magnum aims to be a classy, one-stop shop for local groceries and household goods. Their large carts ensure customers have enough room to pile in everything they might need from Magnum's fully and eclectically stocked shelves. There are frozen meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, canned food, bathroom and bedroom accessories, pastries, cakes, dairy products and alcoholic beverages. Magnum is also a great place to go if you are setting up temporary housing as it also offers books, kitchen accessories, such as plates and cups, and even kids' clothes.
Magnum is popular among Almaty residents, so be prepared to jockey with other carts and wait 15 or more minutes to check out. To keep waiting customers happy, the management has come up with creative, flexible discount systems. "Once, I was the tenth customer and everything I bought was given to me at no cost! It felt like hitting the jackpot in a casino! And I'd bought $100 dollars' worth of food!" 29-year-old Slava Ivanov, a construction worker from Almaty, told EdgeKz. On top of all that, Magnum's reasonable prices are a pleasant surprise. Magnum has three other outlets in Almaty, and one in Karaganda.
3. Green (Zelyony) Bazaar
Address: 55 Zhibek Zholy Street
Phone: +7 (727) 273 29 60
Hours: Daily 9 am – 6 pm. Closed Sundays
"All roads lead to the Green Bazaar," the locals say. This bazaar has a rich history with roots extending back to the Soviet era. Whether you're an expat, tourist or even a local, the Green Bazaar ('green' is 'zeleny' in Russian) should be on your list of must-see places. Zelyony has been a tourist attraction for a long time, but locals come here to buy fresh meat of all sorts – horse, mutton, beef, pork, chicken and more – and a variety of produce. International visitors come to get what they can't find in their home countries, including things like cheaper red caviar and real, fattening food that hasn't been sitting on shelves for months. This is your stop if you are looking for something fresh: fresh-cut meat, fresh fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, fresh dairy products and even Korean salads any time of the year.
The Zelyony Bazaar isn't only about food. It's a place to get carried away as the variety of clothes and souvenirs can make you forget what you came for. Expect to walk away loaded with stuff you had no idea you needed. On the downside, Zelyony gets dirty and crowded and you'll want to watch out for pickpockets. But the Zelyony Bazaar is one of a kind and popular for locals and tourists alike.
4. RamstoreAddress: 226, Furmanov Street, 2nd floor
Phone: +7(727) 330-55-01
Hours: Daily 9 am-11 pm
The Ramstore Supermarket was the first of its kind to open in Almaty back in 1999. Located on one of Almaty's busiest streets – Furmanov Street in the Samal Two Micro District – it includes a skating rink, more than 50 boutiques, a food court, movie theatre, pharmacy, beauty salon, dry cleaner and other boutiques. If what you need are groceries, head to the supermarket on the second floor. "One great thing at Ramstore is the fresh-cut meat at affordable prices! And another thing is that you never have to wait in line for too long. There are always enough cashiers, always smiling and nice to the customers," 24-year-old Almaty resident and Ramstore regular Almira Zhumatova told EdgeKz. If you decide to become a regular at the Ramstore chain, you can join their Ramstore club for discounts. There are 21 Ramstore outlets throughout Kazakhstan.
Address: 121 Abylai Khan Street
Phone: +7 (727) 266 2555
Hours: Open 24 hours
Stolichny Almaty is called the best supermarket in Almaty by some of its regulars. First of all, it's conveniently located in the city center at the intersection of Abylai Khan Street and Kabanbay Batyr Street. Secondly, it's open all day and all night. Then there's the famous kitchen, with Kazakh fast food, salads and light snacks like sandwiches for hungry night owls. Add its pastries and cakes, which are always fresh and which Almaty locals swear by, and you can see why this place is popular. You can even order unique pastries, such as custom birthday cakes. "I ordered a cake for my daughter's birthday in the shape of a castle, and I must admit I was impressed. It was designed well and it was delicious! All in all, it's a great supermarket. It's always nice to shop there," says a Stolichny regular who identified himself as Konstantin. Stolichy's two drawbacks? Prices are a bit higher than other stores and there's no parking lot.
Address: 24 Petrov Street
Phone: +7(7172) 343 462
Hours: Daily 10 am – 7:30 pm, 10 am – 7 pm Mondays
Evraziya ("Eurasia" in Russian) is located on Astana's right bank and is one of the most visited supermarkets in the city. Evraziya offers a huge variety of goods, from home appliances to makeup, cell phones, clothing and food. The food is a major attraction. In-the-know local public relations manager Ainur Karabayeva loves it. "I've gone to Evraziya just for the meat ever since I moved to Astana and now I am not only a customer there, but I've become friends with some vendors. Even my aunts now all go to Evraziya to buy meat. I can tell you, they know much more about that than me," the-21-year-old said. Beside the fresh meats, Evraziya offers alcoholic beverages, freshly made Korean salads, spices, pastries, fruits and vegetables. Evraziya keeps its prices pretty high, but as the only one of its kind in the country, it can afford to.
Address: 47 Seifullin Street
Phone:+7 (7172) 216 589
Hours: First floor open 24 hours
Artyom is referred to as the Green Bazaar of Astana – you can find everything here. The supermarket is on the first floor of the six-story complex, which includes a food court on the top floor and other floors filled with furniture, barbershops, tailors, clothing, kitchen appliances and more. Artyom is famed for its fresh fruits and vegetables. Here you'll find stall after stall packed with nicely sorted pyramids of apples, pears, watermelons and melons, as well as beautiful greens like parcel, coriander and dill. "When I used to live in the neighborhood, I thought that Artyom was very much like the Green Bazaar (Zelyony) in Almaty. Everything is cheap and fresh," Assel Bimisheva, a 33-year-old homemaker, told EdgeKz. Unfortunately, also like the Green Bazaar, Artyom can get crowded, dirty and you'll want to watch for pickpockets. But the slight inconveniences are well worth the trip. Artyom is conveniently located on the right bank at the intersection of Valikhanov Street and Seifullin Street. Its low prices and large selection are unique in the capital.
3. Green Supermarket
Address: 20 Valikhanov Street
Phone: +7 (7172) 580 541
Hours: Open 24 hours
Green is Astana's busiest supermarket. There are shopping cart traffic jams and long queues. Green is another one-stop shop with home and kitchen wares, bed and bath supplies, DVDs and garden tools in addition to food. Green is so popular because it has the most affordable prices in the city. It's also conveniently located across the street from Artyom on Valikhanov Street. "My husband and I come to shop here at least once a week. The prices are the best in town and the products are not bad. What else would you want?" said Karla Nurseitova, a 44-year-old school teacher. With its location and its own parking lot—a rarity for supermarkets here—Green wins for convenience and price. Green has five outlets in Almaty and three in Astana.
Address: 2 Bukeikhan Street
Phone: +7 (7172) 324 107
Hours: Open 24 hours
Astana is probably one of the oldest stores in the Kazakh capital. It was built in the early 20th century by peasant-nomads from Russia and is today one of the few buildings in town to boast Old Russian imperialist architecture. The building is in the old city center on the right bank, across the street between the Congress Hall and the Ministry of Agriculture. The building may be an antique, but Astana has kept up with times and today you can find a blend of European and local products on its shelves. Everything is fresh in Astana, especially the baked pastries, since they have their own confectionary. "Cakes really define this supermarket," 33-year-old web designer and Astana resident Marina Khassanova told EdgeKz. Since Astana is open 24 hours, the prices are a bit higher than those of its competitors. To this day, Astana Supermarket is thought to be one of the best in the Kazakh capital.
Address: 80 Kenessary Street
Phone: +7 (7172) 374 123
Hours: Open 24 hours
Sputnik is located on Astana's right bank, along central Kenessary Street. It used to be called "Kazakhstan Supermarket" and has served Astana residents since Soviet times – but it's greatly improved since then. Now, there's a mix of products from Europe, Russia and China. This supermarket's claim to fame is its fresh seafood, such as it live, still-crawling crawfish. Sputnik is also known as a place for kvas, the Russian non-alcoholic beverage made of fermented wheat, which it has on tap. It looks like beer and tastes similar to dark beer, but has negligible alcohol content. Another big plus for Sputnik Supermarket is that you don't have to wait: cashiers are always fast and the staff will take your cart for you after you check out, an unusual perk. Sputnik also has standard dairy products, some vegetables and fruit, cold cuts and meat, and basic kitchen, bathroom and bedroom items. "You can find anything you need at Sputnik. It's just a nice store with a lot of products," says Talant Meyrambekov, a 20-year-old regular customer.