About Uzbek Cuisine
Facinating look at the cuisine and culture of Uzbekistan remembering this is the Silk Road. Major cities include: Bukhara, Samarqand and Tashkent. Uzbekistan is bordered by Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and also shares a short border with Afghanistan to the south. Uzbekistan has a high literacy rate with about 88% of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write.
The photo: Plov and meat spice cocktail at Chorsu Market in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is a crossroads in Central Asia. It has been invaded by Mongols, Turks, Persians, Chinese, Russians and many others. There have been immigrants and refugees from adjacent countries too, so that there is a great variety of races living there.
It is an agricultural area of garin, vegetable, fruit and sheep.
Uzbek dishes are not notably hot and fiery and infact they use gentle flavours, though certainly flavorful. Some of their principle spices are black cumin, red and black peppers, barberries, coriander, and sesame seeds. The more common herbs are cilantro (fresh coriander), dill, parsley, celeriac, and basil. Other seasonings include wine vinegar, liberally applied to salads and marinades, and fermented milk products.
Flat breads are common and cooked in Tandoor ovens. Fermented milk is a staple in their diets - most predominant - katyk, or yogurt made from sour milk, and suzma, strained clotted milk similar to cottage cheese, are eaten plain, in salads, or added to soups and main products, resulting in a unique and delicious flavor.
Plov or Osh, the Uzbek version of "pilaff" ("pilav"), is the flagship of their cookery. It consists mainly of fried and boiled meat, onions, carrots and rice; with raisins, barberries, chickpeas, or fruit added for variation. Uzbek men pride themselves on their ability to prepare the most unique and sumptuous plov. The oshpaz, or master chief, often cooks plov over an open flame, sometimes serving up to 1000 people from a single cauldron on holidays or occasions such as weddings. It certainly takes years of practice with no room for failure to prepare a dish, at times, containing up to 100 kilograms of rice.
Tea is revered in the finest oriental traditions. It is offered first to any guest and there exists a whole subset of mores surrounding the preparation, offering and consuming of tea. Green tea is the drink of hospitality and predominant. Black tea is preferred in Tashkent, though both teas are seldom taken with milk or sugar. An entire portion of their cuisine is dedicated solely to tea drinking. Some of these include samsa, bread, halva, and various fried foods.
The "choyhona" (teahouse) is a cornerstone of traditional Uzbek society. Always shaded, preferably situated near a cool stream, the choyhona is a gathering place for social interaction and fraternity. Robed Uzbek men congregate around low tables centered on beds adorned with ancient carpets, enjoying delicious palov, kebab and endless cups of green tea.
If there is interest I can share some wonderful recipes of this area. The dishes are very flavourful, such Manty a popular and favorite Uzbek dish. Manty is prepared from dough and water, which is unrolled in layers by thickness of 4-5 mm and cut in squares. Meat, vegetables or greens can be used as a stuffing. Manty is steamed for 35-45 minutes in special pot (kaskan). Manty is served with sour milk or with sour cream. It is interesting that this same kaskan is seen in China further along the Silk Road.
Samsa is another very popular dish prepared in all areas of Uzbekistan with various forcemeats: meat, pumpkin, greens, etc. Samsa is baked in tandoor oven, and also in gas ovens and electric plates. For samsa, average stiff dough is mixed, left for 20-30 minutes, then unrolled in plaits and cut on pieces of 10-15 grams. It should not be thicker than 2-2,5 mm. Edges are more thin than the middle. Forcemeat is put in the center, formed in dough and being baked in high temperature. For the dough the following ingredients are required: flour - 25 g, water - 105 g, salt - 6 g; for forcemeat - mutton or beef fillet - 150 g, fat - 35 g, onion- 250 g, caraway - 1 g, salt and pepper.
Although nearly 50% of the population of Ubikistan is said to be Muslim wine production is a bundant. The Rome of the Orient" - Samarkand, has been impressing people with its amenities for already 25 centuries. However, Samarkand - it's not only one of the oldest cities in the world, but also the modern city of Uzbekistan where many efforts have been made to develop industry, education and science. The capital of Zarafshan valley has many monuments and one of them is also the Winery named after M.A. Khovrenko and we would like to tell you more about current production of this Winery in Samarkand.
Uzbekistan produces over 40,000 gallon of wine a year which ranks them as #23 in world production of wine which really surprised me!