Some secrets of famous Uzbek cuisine
Especially distinctive and developed aspect of Uzbek culture is its cuisine. Unlike nomadic neighbors, Uzbek people had firm and settled civilization for many centuries. Among deserts and mountains, in oasis and fertile valleys, people cultivated grain (wheat) and domesticated cattle. As a result, abundance of products allowed Uzbek people to express its unique tradition of hospitality, which in return enriched their culture.
Seasons, especially winter and summer make impact on the composition of main menu. In summer, fruits, vegetables and nuts are everywhere. In Uzbekistan, fruits grow in abundance – grapes, melons, water-melons, apricots, pears, apples, quince, persimmon cherries, pomegranates, lemons and fig. Vegetables are no less abundant, including some less known varieties of green radish, yellow carrot, gourd family, in addition to regular eggplants, peppers, turnips, cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.
Winter diet traditionally consists of dried fruits and vegetables and tinned goods. Noodles and dishes like pasta – are also regular meals in cool time of the year.
Mainly, lamb is preferred source of protein in Uzbek cuisine. Lambs are valued not only for their meat and fatty tail (source of fat for culinary), but also for their wool. Beef and horse-meat are also used in significant amounts for meals. Camel and goat meats are less common.
Uzbek dishes are not that spicy in taste, though, of course are savory. Some spices used in cooking: black caraway, paprika and red pepper, barberry, coriander and seeds of sesame. The most popular herbs are parsley (fresh coriander), fennel, celery and basil. Other dressing includes wine vinegar, added separately to salads, marinades and sour milk products. Multitude of varieties of bread, rich and unleavened, is the major element in eating for the majority of population. Flat (round) bread, or “non” (lepyoshka), is normally baked in clay oven (tandyrs), and served with tea, not speaking about every individual course. Some kinds of “lepyoshkas” are baked with onions or meat, baked in dough, others are strewn with the seeds of sesame or kalondji.
Central Asia is known for various and delicate sour milk products. The most known among them are “qatyq” or yogurt, made of sour milk, and “suzma” – baked dense milk, similar to cottage cheese which are normally served separately, in salads or added to soups or main course, what gives the latter unique and delicious flavor.
“Plov” (Uzbek version – “palov”) is the basic course of Uzbek cuisine. It consists mainly of fried meat, onion, carrot and rice; with adding of raisins, barberry, chick-pea "nokhat" and/or fruits. Uzbek men are proud of their skills to cook unique and luxurious plov. “Oshpaz”, or chef, often cooks plov in the open fire, separate caldron. On holidays or special events, for example wedding party, normally more than 1,000 people have a chance to taste plov. Of course, it requires years of practice to learn how to cook perfect plov, which sometimes contains up to 100 kg of rice.
Tea, as ceremony, is one of the most wonderful oriental traditions. Tea at the beginning is offered to any guest and there is additional set of customs which includes preparing, serving and drinking tea. Green tea dominates and is considered to be the drink of hospitality. Black tea is preferred in Tashkent. Both teas are sometimes served with milk, and often with sugar. Tea-drinking ceremony in Uzbek cuisine also includes consumption of such foods as somsa, lepyoshkas, halva and various fried and baked foods.
"Choykhona" (tea-house) is an important part of traditions of Uzbek society. Always located in shaded site, preferably, located near cool stream, Choykhona is the place for social interaction, communication and brotherhood. Uzbek men, gathered around low tables, set on trestle-beds, decorated by carpets, enjoy delicious plov, shashlyk and endless “pialas” (tea cup) of green tea.
Meals of Uzbek cuisine
Main national Uzbek dish is plov. Usually, holiday plov is cooked of lamb and rice, with addition of big amount of carrot, onions and spices. Every component of plov bears symbolic load, while holiday dinner with plov has ritual sense, related to ancient traditions. Plov is cooked on longstanding recipe and has a lot of varieties. For wedding ceremony, which plays important role in national Uzbek rites, special wedding plov is cooked. Every province of the country has its own secrets of cooking this meal, which create its unique taste and flavor. Normallyplovisservedonbigflatplate. According to ancient tradition, plov is eaten with hands from common plate. However, nowadays, more often, especially in urban areas, you could find that people use spoons, and sometimes even forks. Lepyoshkas are always served for plov.
“Sumalak” plays special role in the national Uzbek cuisine. In antiquity, sumalak as ritual dish was cooked before the beginning of spring sowing works. Sumalak is cooked from germinated seeds of the wheat, which should be grinded, and then boiled in the cauldron on the cotton oil with permanent adding of flour and water for 10-12 hours. It’s considered that sumalak should be cooked with motets and humorous, jolly singings. Aftercooling, themealservedonatable. It’s considered, that this meal gives people physical and spiritual power. There is legend about origin of sumalak. Once upon a time, city-fortress at the bank of Jeikhan was taken on siege by the nomads from East. When the city run out of all provisions, the patriarchs ordered to take out remaining stocks, the last bags of dampened and germinated wheat. When defenders of the city tasted unattractive broth, they so much burst of energy and they started to beat off the attacks of enemies with such a rage, that the enemies got confused and retreated. So, thepeacewasregained.
Among liquid meals in Uzbek national cuisine, different kinds of “shurpas” (soups) and “mastava” play an important role. Bouillon of fatty meat forms the basis of them. Shurpa and mastava are cooked from fresh or pre-fried meat, often it’s freshly slaughtered lamb. Important components are carrot and onion, which are to be sliced and added in an uncooked form. Sometimes, shurpa is cooked with turnip, chick-pea. In some areas, they also put potatoes, tomatoes, sweet pepper. Shurpa could be of two types: “qainatma” (boiled shurpa from uncooked meat) and qovurma (fried shurpa from pre-fried meat). Qainatma-shurpa is more common and it has delicate taste and flavor. The meat is boiled in large pieces, while vegetables are put either whole pieces or in large lobules. It should be cooked on slow fire, not allowing vigorous boil. Mastava could be considered as one of the types of shurpa. It’snormallycookedfrompre-friedmeat. The main component of mastava is rice, which is put into bouillon 25-30 minutes before it’s done, after careful sorting out and washing. In some areas, to give special taste, they put caraway into shurpa 50-60 minutes before it’s done.
In Uzbek national cuisine, the popular soups are those seasoned by homemade noodles. “Ugra” is cooked on bouillon, fresh or sour milk. This kind of soup is usually cooked in Bukhoro, Qashqadaryo, Samarqand and Tashkent provinces, Farghona valley. Stiff dough is kneaded on water or milk adding little bit of fluxed butter or without adding, sometimes adding eggs. After 30-40 minutes, dough is rolled out into thin sheets, which are cut into lines of width 8-10 cm, interspersing with flour, laid into pile and sliced in noodles. Sliced in small blocks, the meat, potato, carrot and onion are then fried in small quantity of fat/oil adding fresh tomatoes. Pre-fried vegetables are poured with tap water, boiled, removed foam, put, if necessary, haricot beans, salt depending on the taste. 12-15 minutes before it gets done, they increase fire and put noodles in small portions.
“Chuchvara” is the most common national meal, sometimes you could find under the name of “varaqi-chuchvara” (ravioli). All provinces use one and the same recipe to cook chuchvara. Flour, eggs, water and salt are kneaded to stiff dough, which is then left for 40-50 minutes for swelling. For the minced meat, the beef or lamb are cut into small pieces and then is fine-chopped with onion or minced on the grinder. They add little bit of fresh water, pepper, salt, caraway seeds and carefully blend it. The dough is rolled out into sheets of width of 1-1.5 mm and cut into squares 4х4 cm. They put minced meat on piece of dough, pinching angles, roll them up and link the edges, give the shape of crescent with the whole in the middle. Before serving, chuchvara is boiled in salted water or bouillon and served it with suzma, seasoned by ground pepper, passaged by onion and tomato, with black pepper or sour cream.
After plov, “manty” is the most common and favorite meal of Uzbeks, therefore, in many areas, manty is served as conclusion of the meal. In Farghona valley, Samarqand, Tashkent and Bukhoro, manty is one of the most important components of the ration of the local population, other areas cook it not very often. Manty is coked of stiffly water-kneaded dough, which is rolled out into sheets of 4-5 mm and is cut into squares of 12х12 cm where filling could be minced meat, minced vegetables and/or greens. Manty is cooked on steam within 35-45 minutes in special pots (qasqons) and served with qatyq or sour cream.
“Samsa” is cooked in all provinces of Uzbekistan with different filling: minced meat, pumpkin, greens and etc.. Samsa is baked in tandyrs, as well as in ovens of gas or electric stoves. For samsa, they knead the medium stiff dough, keep it for 20-30 minutes to mature, then rollout into plait and cut them into pieces of 10-15 grams. They must not be thicker than 2-2.5 mm. The edges are rolled out thinner, than the middle. After mince filling is laid in the middle, they form it into dough and bake it under high temperature. Dough requires wheat flour - 25 grams, water - 105 grams, salt- 6grams; mince filling- flesh of lamb or beef - 150 grams, fat - 35 grams, onion - 250 grams, caraway seeds - 1 gram, salt and pepper according to the taste.
There are two types of “lagman”: kesma-lagman and chuzma–lagman, and the last one is cooked more often. Kesma-lagman has more ancient history, than chuzma-lagman. Flour, eggs, water and salt are used to knead stiff dough, which is then kept under napkin for 30-40 minutes to mature. Then, the dough is rolled out into sheets of 1.5-2 mm and the diameter of at least 10-15 cm. The sheets are piled, interspersing with flour and use of sharp thin knife to cut noodles. Noodles are slightly shaken-off and boiled in salted water. In serving, noodles are dressed with sauce cooked from meat, potato, carrot, onion and tomato. They pre-fry the products, pour little water and stew till it’s done. In Farghona and Tashkent provinces, lagman is cooked with adding radish and paprika.
“Naryn” is quiet common Uzbek meal, which is cooked in all provinces of the country. Flour, eggs, water and salt are used to knead stiff dough, which is then kept under wet towel for 30-40 minutes. Then the dough is rolled out into thin sheets, which then is cut into squares of 15x15 cm interspersing with flour. After the squares are boiled in the water, they lay each square in the special basket to dry and cool, then they lubricate with cotton oil, pile them, cut into lines of width 5-7 mm, which then are sliced into small noodles. Before serving, they add meat boiled and sliced accordingly, and on the top, they put slice of qazy (sausage of the horse-meat). Sometimes, they serve it with some bouillon. The dough requires wheat dough - 900 grams, water - 90 grams, salt - 6 grams, 1 egg.
“Shashlyk” is one of the most popular meals served in Uzbekistan, is loved by everyone. Usually, it’s marinaded pieces of lamb and fat of sheep pulled on metallic sticks and cooked on burning hot coal. There are several varieties of shashlyk, with the most common to be shashlyk of lamb’s meat and shashlyk of liver. Hot shashlyk is served with the sliced onion. Before eating, while shashlyk is hot, they add some pepper with vinegar. Shashlyk could be cooked also from quail or fatty fish (cat-fish, chub, sazan – fresh water fish which belongs to the family of carps). It’sveryspecialandunique.