Tasty Uzbekistan

National cuisine

Some Uzbek recipes have a long history. There are about thousands of dishes and recipes whose origins can be traced from the times before the Turkic and Mongol invasions, and in different regions of the country can make their own way.

In the north prefer pilaf, grilled meats, pastry and cakes. In the south are preparing quite a lot of kinds of elaborate dishes of rice and vegetables, as well as make excellent desserts. An important place in the local table is mutton, horse meat, excellent local soups with lots of vegetables, vegetables themselves, dairy products and bread.

Oriental cuisine has not only unusual taste, but also smell that pleasantly tickles the nostrils even before the dishes served at the table.  Uzbek cuisine is unthinkable without the aromatic herbs and spices, creating a whirlwind fragrant, even over the most common dish. Commonly used herbs, both in fresh and in dried form – it is kashnich (coriander), dill, parsley, mint, saffron and, of course, raihan – the main local herb – known worldwide as basil.

Spices and herbs in Uzbek cuisine are not only used as an appetite pathogen, but also an assistant in the digestion of the abundant and mostly fatty food.  It has long been known that green helps digest any food, so it goes perfectly with all products.

Greens are being dried in Uzbekistan for a long time and everywhere. Any housewife has is this fragrant dried herbs in stock, which when added to a hot cauldron, filled the whole house with scent, promoting the release of saliva and gastric juice, and as a result awakening appetite in whole household. 

The grass is most often dried sliced, the pods of bitter red and sweet peppers are dried whole, while maintaining their original appearance. All spices are dried in summer, but in the shade, the sun should not touch them with its rays and not take the natural color, taste and smell.

Ask any Uzbek what he would put in a dish to make it even tastier, almost everybody answers – cumin. This spice is widely regarded as the main spice among peers.  It is added to the first and second courses, appetizers and salads. The main dish of the Uzbek cousine pilaf is also cooked with cumin, it is as important as the main ingredients of this dish.

The uniqueness of this spice is not only in its flavor and smell, but also antiparasitic properties. For example, if you rub meat with zira mixed with salt, the meat can keep fresh without cold up to 7 days.  Therefore, the people sometimes call cumin “the natural refrigerator.”

It should be noted that the Uzbek cuisine is rarely confined to one spice.  Often, cumin, barberry, saffron, turmeric, sweet red peppers, a whole head of garlic, fruits and dried fruits: quince, dried apricots, raisins are added into same pilaf simultaneously . Each ingredient imparts a special flavor afloat, so it is added at the discretion of Oshpaz (master cook pilaf).

For example, barberry gives the dish a slightly sour taste. It has a large supply of vitamin C, which makes it not only delicious, but also useful in any food.

Black and red peppers are also widely used in the local cuisine, and red pepper often used fresh, in the form of a pod. He gets on the table ripe – red and semi-ripe – green. Red peppers are added a whole into the first, second courses, salads and even eaten on their own, with a hot flatbread and syuzma.

But black pepper is used in the ground form as a flavoring of prepared dishes. But in some recipes whole peas of black pepper are used – in shurpa, laghman, with marinated vegetables.

In preparing the world-famous Uzbek flatbread, which taste and aroma can reach the heavens, sesame grains are used. These little seeds are sprinkled in the center of the sunny flatbread, samsa on buns. Useful properties of sesame are known in medicine for a long time, and also a long time, it is used in baking in Uzbek cuisine.

Oriental spices give the dish is not only unique taste and aroma, but also make them useful, contribute to the rapid assimilation of food.

Counters with the spices are present any Uzbek market. Oriental spices are sold in bulk, as magical powders, and really, they work wonders – a pinch of spices can cause appetite by hundreds of people who only breathe in their fragrance. And once inhaled, the fragrance will not be forgotten forever. 

In Uzbek families, as in many countries, women are engaged in cooking, but it is believed that the art of cooking this holiday pilaf belongs only to men. Quite often in the chaykhanakh among frequenters pilaf cooking competitions are held.

According to folk tradition even in the  name of pilaf – “Osh pilaf”  initial letters of names of the main components of this dish – onions, carrots, meat, oil, salt, water and rice lurk.

The recipe of preparation of the well-known Uzbek pilaf for centuries passed not only from generation to generation, from father to son, but also by word of mouth, from hand to hand through merchants and travelers along the Great Silk Road. Taking into account the local tastes and available ingredients it changed this or that way becoming a popular meal at all east people from Xinjiang to Azerbaijan.

In the Uzbek cookery more than fifty kinds of this dish are known: with meat and chicken, with peas and potatoes, steamed and fried on mutton tailed fat,  a in Khorezm way and a in Samarkand way, with a quince and with garlic …

Ancient recipes of pilaf with partridges, pilaf with raisin or pilaf from rice of wax ripeness remained in an invariance since the X-XII centuries, and some ways of preparation of “classical” pilaf total thousands years.

The process of cooking festive pilaf looks like a religious rite. For good pilaf coking first of all ф cast iron pot with a round bottom and the whole set of sharp steak knives for cleaning,  choping and cutting meat, onion, carrots and special metal skimmer (slotted spoon) are needed. The whole team of assistants cook clean and cut onion, carrot like straw, whereas the best variety of pilaf carrot is not orange-red but special light yellow one.

Rice is carefully washed out and sometimes even presoaked in water. In the heated pot mutton fat or vegetable oil is heated before a light white smoke arises and then cooking the gravy of pilaf begins. First onion is fried in boiling fat or oil then the pieces of meat must be put. For pilaf, depending on options of the recipe both mutton, and a goat’s meat is good, also beef and even a horse-flesh – of which a special sausage-kazy is made and added in some types of pilaf. Meat is fried stirring with a slotted spoon until formation of a ruddy crust then carrot is put and slightly fried, afterwards some water should be poured in pot and simmered stew. Ready gravy seasoned with salt, red chilly pepper or paprika, cumin seeds and dried berries of barberry, has to be transparent and clearly give feeling of all flavoring scale of the fried mix of onion, meat and carrot.

Finally, there comes turning point of preparation of pilaf – a laying of rice. It is necessary to notice that rice as the main culture of irrigated agriculture has been cultivated in Central Asia since the most ancient times. The American scientist Raphael Pampelli, a renowned researcher of the Great Silk Road, who opened near Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan  Anau culture relating to the IV-III millennium B.C., found crocks of the pottery ornamented with grains of wheat, rice and barley. The American scientist Raphael Pampelli, a renowned researcher of the Great Silk Road, who opened near Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan  Anau culture relating to the IV-III millennium B.C., found crocks of the pottery ornamented with grains of wheat, rice and barley. As archeologists established, in the III century B.C. rice was successfully cultivated in Fergana Valley and in flood plains of the rivers of Zaravshan, Amu Darya and Syr-Darya. In “Geography” of the Ancient Greek historian and the geographer Strabon it is testified that “tribes  Massagetae and Saks inhabiting lands to the East from the Caspian Sea, sow pearl grain”.

The best brand of rice for pilaf is “devzira” – the local ancient grade created by centuries-old national selection. It is known from historical chronicles that in the X-XI centuries during an era of the Samanids pilaf from devzira rice served on court feasts. This grade is cultivated in Fergana Valley mainly on personal plots of peasants as it is considered low-yield crop and not suitable for cultivation on big plantations. However low productivity of devzira is compensated by excellent quality of pilaf. Its oblong ribbed grain pink hue , tumbled in a water mill have a high water absorption properties and contain less starch , but superior to other varieties in the amount of vitamin B2 and choline. Dry rice crackles in a handful, powdering palms with gentle pinkish pollen.

Other local rice variety – bugdaygurunch (grain rice) is also good for pilaf. Its large white grains with a nacreous shade need to be presoaked  before putting in pilaf from one to two hours in warm salted water.

Rice should be laid over meat and carrot  evenly and filled in with water so that its level over rice was at the level of “the first joint of a forefinger” of a cook. When water evaporates from the pot some holes are made  in rice with a special  wooden stick where a little more water is added.

In the real pilaf rice has to be crumbly, its grains have to be soft and not stick to each other. To bring pilaf to readiness, rice is collected to the middle ahill and a pot is  tightly covered with  a special ceramic lid – “damtavok” or  a big soup plate and the fire reduced to minimum. The skilled cook defines readiness of pilaf, banging with a skimmer  on the rise hill. If water from rice has not completely evaporated – hissing and if the dish is ready is heard – the  clunk is produced. Pilaf is served on a table in the big ceramic or faience plates-lyagans. Rice`s laid beautifully like a hill, on a top  pieces of meat put and all this strew with fresh chopped greens. In the ancient times at weddings pilaf used to be served to each guest separately on flat cakes.

In olden times pilaf was considered as curative foods. Indeed pilaf is high-calorific, easily digestible food, with the balanced ratio of carbohydrates, fats and protein can successfully be applied at an anemia, tuberculosis and the general exhaustion.

According to a centuries-old national tradition in Uzbekistan pilaf served mainly in the evening for dinner. Obligatory addition to pilaf are salads from fresh or marinated vegetables, fruit and berries – tomatoes, cucumbers, a radish and a red radish, green onion, grains of pomegranate, sour grapes, cherry, strawberry with addition of greens of cilantro, fennel, parsley, garlic and basil leaves. Salads not only enrich pilaf with vitamins, but also promote the best assimilation of this quite fat meal. And certainly, on a table there has to be tea. In Tashkent people prefer black tea and in other regions of Uzbekistan green tea – “kook choi” is preferred. A peculiar ritual of preparation of tea is strictly observed in each family. The hostess rinses a porcelain teapot with boiled water, puts tea in it with a special tea spoon  and having made douses  over the  teapot with boiling water. A few minutes later a kettle and bowls – small porcelain bowls are served on the table. It is necessary to pour in a drinking bowl some freshly brewed  tea and to pour it back in a teapot three times, so taste and aroma of drink comes to light better. Respected guest usually served some tea in a drinking bowl approximately in a third of its volume, only a few sips. he hostess offers crystal sugar-navat, honey or sweets to tea. Hostess offers crystal sugar-navat, honey or sweets to tea.

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