Uzbekistan‘s most significant national dish is plov (palov, osh or “pilaf”), made with rice, meat , carrots, chickpeas, raisins, barberries, onions, black pepper, zera (cumin) and other herbs. The Uzbek people call plova “The King of Cuisine”.Usually it is cooked ina kazan (or deghi) over an open fire. The people from different regions have own way of cooking. And some time may add fruit for variation.Although it is often prepared at home for family as a part of daily life but on special occasions it is cooked by theoshpaz( osh master chef), sometimes serving up to 1,000 people from a single cauldron.
Damlama (dimlama, damlama) is a useful and nutritious dish of Uzbek cuisine, filled with all sorts of vegetables with pieces of meat, or without it (sabzy dimlam – stewed vegetables). An analogue in Russian cooking is vegetable stew. The name of the dish comes from the verb “dimlamok”, which in translation means “stew”.
Damlama is mostly cooked in summer and autumn, in the season of abundance of vegetables, and also in winter, but with a smaller set of juicy ingredients.
Damlama will turn out unmatched delicious, if it is cooked in nature (at the dacha), at the stake. The taste of stewed vegetables in its own juice, with the aroma of real smoke, will turn this dish into culinary magic.
Soups are very popular in Uzbekistan and take an important place in national culinary. Uzbek soups are quite thick and rich of such vegetables as carrot, beet, onion, greens and various spices.
The most popular Uzbek soup is shurpa. There are dozens of recipes of shurpa: “shurpa-chaban” – soup with meat, potato, onion and tomato, “shurpa-mash” – mutton soup with green gram, “kaurma-shurpa” – soup with turnip, potato and carrot, “kiyma-shurpa” – soup with meatballs, “sholgom-shurpa”- mutton soup with turnip, “kifta-shurpa” – soup with meat sausages, pea and other vegetables, and others.
Another popular Uzbek soup is mastava – soup with meat and vegetables, in which the sour milk, pepper and greens are added at serving. Also not less popular soup is mashkhurda – soup with green gram, rice, potato, which is also dressed with sour milk, greens and onion, and cholop – cold soup with cucumbers, radish, greens and sour milk.
Use of sour milk in soups originated in that time, when Turks, ancestors of today Uzbeks, were nomadic tribes. The general name of soups with sour milk is katikli.
Shashlik or shish-kabob is common food in entire Central Asia and widely popular in Uzbekistan. Being an agro based country, Uzbekistan is exporting meat to other countries. There are so many ways to cook “Shashlik”, it can be made of lamb, beef or chicken. It can be made of whole or ground meat. The main secret of delicious “Kabob-Shashlik” is the marination. There are different recipes of marination-yogurt with spices, sparkling water with spices, vinegar with spices and other ingredients.
Samsa(baked pastry) the most common food in Uzbekistan and available at any crowdedly place. It has various fillings like meat, potatoes, pumpkin, herbs, etc. It is often baked in a tandoor (clay oven). Uzbek people love to eat fat in samsa so some should be careful and take out extra fat before eating.
Manti (Manty, Manties or Mantu) is a dish of Uzbek cuisine that has the form of large dumplings filled with meat and steamed in a special pot. Manti is a true ‘nomad’: it first came to Central Asia from China, and then its various versions spread to Russia and other European countries.
Manti is a meal usually cooked for dinner or supper. It is served in a large lagan(dish), and then each person puts the amount of manti he wants into their plate. In Uzbekistan manti, like most of the other Uzbek dishes, is traditionally eaten with the hands. Actually, it is rather difficult to eat it with the help of cutlery, and soon you will also realize that, eaten with the hands, it seems even more delicious, as its filling does not fall out, but remains within the dumpling together with the juice. Therefore, do not hesitate to eat it with the hands: it will in no way breach the etiquette.
Manti are usually served with sour cream (smetana) or tomato sauce, or fresh onion rings (sprinkled with vinegar and black pepper), herbs, salt, pepper and butter.
Sumalak (a wheat bran pudding) is a dish cooked exclusively for spring festival of Navruz and thus available for tasting only once a year. Sumalak is very tasty, invigorating and restores one’s strength lost in the course of the winter.
Today we do not know exactly who was the first to cook this ritual dish based on sprouting wheat grains and when they did it. Nevertheless, every year in the last days of March all regions of Uzbekistan witness the appearance of huge cauldrons in the streets and in courts together with great numbers of people talking merrily and dancing around them. This is ‘Sumalak sayli’ (the sumalak holiday), which calls people to friendship, fraternity and cooperation.
The process of cooking sumalak is an interesting ritual, which aims not only to prepare a tasty meal, but also to foster mutual support and unity. Traditionally this was the time when grains of wheat were put into soil, some part of which were reserved for the cooking of sumalak, the main dish of Navruz. Each family put their share of grains into the cauldron, bringing a handful of sprouting grains to where people were boiling sumalak all together.
Ground and pressed, the sprouting wheat grains ooze whitish liquid, which is afterwards mixed with boiling oil and flour. But before pouring oil into the cauldron, its bottom is covered with small pebbles, which are conventionally collected by children. The pebbles do not allow the sumalak to get burnt and make it possible to maintain an optimal temperature during the whole process. However, they have their mystic meaning. So, a person who is happy to receive one of the pebbles during the distribution of sumalak may make a wish and leave the pebble to them as a talisman.
In the course of the cooking the sumalak must be constantly stirred with a large spade-like skimmer. It is rather difficult to stir the viscous substance for 24 hours running, which is why the process involves quite a lot of people who substitute for one another at the cauldron. This is where the tradition of preparing sumalak with the participation of a whole mahalla (block) or street has grown from.
Another interesting custom is to interpret the meaning of the image that is formed under the cauldron lid on the surface of the sumalak after the fire has been put out.
It is traditional to listen to music, sing songs and tell children legends about the appearance of the dish while cooking sumalak. The story about a poor womanwho once lived in a small village on the bank of the Jayhun (the Arab name for the Amudarya) seems the most wonderful. Her husband had died and the woman was bringing up her seven children by herself. One year, when the harvest was very poor, the family did not have enough food for a whole winter and had to starve. The little children were unable to understand why their mother did not feed them and were constantly begging her to give them food. The poor woman was watching with pain how her children were growing weaker from hunger day after day. When the children became so weak they could not even get up, the woman told them she was going to make some tasty meal, which she did in order to ease their sufferings. Then she took the largest cauldron they had, poured some water into it and dug out a handful of wheat grains, which had fallen onto the floor and given sprouts. She put them into the cauldron, too. The woman began to stir the substance and, smiling to the children, was saying that the meal in the cauldron was very tasty and in several minutes they might sit down at the table. When somebody of the children asked if they had to wait long, she answered that she was only to add meat and boil it a little. In saying this she would put several stones into the cauldron and made the children believe they were meat, so that they could continue to wait and struggle. She kept on cooking for the whole day and the following night, and fell asleep when the new day was about to break. She slept only for several minutes, and when she awoke and opened the cauldron, the poor woman found it filled to the edges with warm brown substance, on the surface of which she saw strange images resembling wings. The woman realised that, while she was asleep, their house was visited by angels, who filled her cauldron with unusual food giving strength and consolidating spirit. The woman fed her children and then started to distribute the sumalak among the neighbours, who were also starving. Soon they did what she had done, and also obtained tasty sumalak, which they immediately gave to other people, helping each other survive through that terrible winter.
Nowadays this custom of sharing sumalak with neighbours and friends right after it is ready still exists. There is also a belief that if one tasted sumalak from seven cauldrons in one season, they would become happy. And the fact that most of the people manage to do it indicates that, like in the old times, people readily share what they have – the happiness of living, receiving the spring and celebrating Navruz – with their neighbours, relatives and friends.
If you collect all the recipes of Uzbek cuisine together, you will get a real atlas of Uzbekistan, with all its ethno-cultural colors, traditions and features of the indigenous people of each region separately.
Tukhum-barak is an original dish of Uzbek cuisine, which is prepared exclusively in the Khorezm region. In fact, tukhum-barak – these are vareniki of a square form with a very unusual egg filling.
The name of this dish comes from two derived words “tukhum” – “egg” and “barrack” – “boiled”, that is, “vareniki with egg”. The main ingredient of the filling is raw eggs with spices.
Lagman is one of the delicious dishes of national Uzbek cuisine. The composition of the dish is very simple, but in the hands of the master it turns into a real masterpiece of culinary art. Where Lagomans come from and whose national dish it was originally – a controversial issue. The roots of his appearance go back to the distant past of China, and then the recipe was changed and supplemented under the influence of the culture of Uighurs, Dungans and other nationalities.
With the “creation” lagman associated one legend. Once, three hungry travelers met. One had only kazan, another flour and dried meat, a third radish and fragrant spices. One of them was a pupil of the master of culinary arts, he even undertook to prepare a dish “from what was.” The aroma of the prepared dish attracted the attention of the passing Chinese magnate. He became the first taster of the new dish, and, in modern terms, patented it with a decree – to prepare this dish always! In Uzbekistan, there are two main types of lagman – Uigur chuzma-lagman (stretching lagman) and Uzbek kesma-lagman (cut lagman).
Uzbek cooks often use various Uzbek spices and greens to prepare delicious and fragrant dishes. Generally, such Uzbek spices as black cumin, black pepper, cayenne (fresh, dried and milled), barberries, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon and sesame seeds are used in Uzbek food.
The more common herbs are dill, parsley, celery, cilantro, green onions, green garlic, mint, raikhon (basil), and zhambyl (thyme). Garlic, onionand radish are often used for flavor strength, both as ingredients and spicery. The same role have such fruits as quinsy, grains of pomegranate, fresh and dried plum, alcha (wild cherry) and raisins.
Bread is sacred by Uzbek people. By a tradition, when someone leaves the house he should bite off a small piece of bread, which will be kept until he comes back and eat it.
Uzbek bread, called generally nonor lepeshka, is round and flat and is baked in tandyr (clay oven), after which it comes out toasted and crispy.
There are two types of lepeshkas (Uzbek bread): plain (obi-non) and festal one (patyr). Also they are differed by fancy, flaky dough, by appearance and taste, they are even differed by regions – Samarkand, Bukhara and others. Each region has own method of leaven, own peculiar technology of baking, own inimitable taste.
For instance, Fergana Valley is famous for the most delicious flaky Uzbek bread – katlama non, each layer of which is smeared with oil or sour cream. Also in some regions lepeshkas are baked with cracklings – jizzali-non, or cooked from maize flour –zogora-non, others leavened on herbal potion – kuk-patyr and many other sorts. Some lepeshkas are prepared with onion or meat, baked in dough.
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