Top 15 Popular Uzbek Foods
Uzbek foods are some of the most colorful and delicious dishes of Central Asia. Uzbek cuisine is famous not only in Central Asia but it’s starting to gain popularity in Western cultures as well.
One of the wonderful traditions of Eastern cultures is that a special table is prepared for guests, called dastarkhan. It is full of different sweets, jams, fruits, and the center attraction, Uzbek bread. In fact Uzbek people won’t let you to leave their home until you have eaten a special meal, called osh or pilav.
Let’s take a culinary journey to Uzbekistan and discover the 15 most popular and favored local dishes.
1. Osh or Pilav
We start with this as it is the most delicious food of Uzbek cuisine since it symbolizes the hospitality and tolerance of the people of this nation. In all countries where Uzbeks go, pilav is cooked.
People around the world enjoy this awesome combination of just seven ingredients: butter, meat, onions, carrots, rice, water, and salt.
Sometimes seasonal products such as quince, apricot, turnip, garlic, egg (especially quail`s), peas, pumpkin, raisins, and other ingredients are added. Yes, it is a great sense of pleasure, especially when you try it with a salad of fresh veggies.
2. Uzbek Bread
One cannot imagine an Uzbek table without bread fresh from the tandoor (the oven the bread is cooked in). Bread is considered one of the main cultural products of the nation, as is pilav, and it is traditional for Uzbeks to “taste the salt of the bread” when you visit, as a sign of their hospitality.
However, the shape and appearance of the bread may differ throughout the regions of the country, although almost the same technique and ingredients are used. It is usually made with milk, butter, salt, a small amount of sugar, flour, and yeast, which is prepared in a natural way with special traditional methods.
Seeds are sprinkled on the top of the bread to give an excellent flavor combination. And also, it tastes even better and has an amazing smell when it is hot. The Uzbek people eat bread with every single meal.
Naryn is one of the most popular foods in Uzbek national cuisine. It is a historical meal that gained its popularity among the cattlemen. It requires a lot of meat: beef or horse-flesh (yes, horse meat is eaten regularly throughout Central Asia).
The meat is mixed with the dough, which is boiled in water and then thinly chopped. The mixture is drizzled with vegetable oil and sprinkled with cumin, which gives an aromatic smell and delicate flavor. It can be topped with fresh onions.
Naryn is a meal for colder weather and is very common in Tashkent. However, it can be found in any national dining room and chaikhanas (tea-houses) as it is widely consumed throughout the country.
Sumalak is an ancient and special dish that is cooked exclusively for the Navruz holiday (celebrating the beginning of the new year and new life) so it is usually only prepared once a year. It has been cooked for centuries and the techniques and methods can vary throughout the regions, but the ingredients are always the same: flour and wheat grains washed in water and oil. Nothing more.
According to common belief, if you make a wish when you try it for the first time, it will surely come true!
This is a sacred and holy meal for Uzbeks and should only be cooked by people who are kind, generous, and well-mannered. Usually, it is cooked by older women, who cook through the night and into the morning. Often, families will cook the meal together while they listen to music, dance and sing national songs or tell stories of their history, a symbol of the support and unity of the nation.
5. Kuk (Green) Samsa
Kuk (Green) samsa is the one of main meals of the spring festival and takes an honorable place on the Uzbek dastarkhan. Despite the long time it takes to prepare, it is very affordable and considered to be very healthy.
The original recipe uses traditional cooking methods that have been passed down for generations. It is prepared from greens, when the first fresh sprouts of spring herbs appear in early spring. At this time of the year, our body requires a lot of vitamins and nutrients which are available in this samsa since as it is full of green herbs.
The green herbs, onions, and salt are mixed and put inside the dough, which is then cooked in the oven.
Another healthy option is a steamed dish known as manti. It is a large steamed dumpling that is exceptionally delicious and delicate. Manti is usually prepared with stiff dough, minced or finely chopped meat, onions, and seasoning such as cumin.
The procedure: a mixture of meat and onions is placed in a round-shaped dough and a piece of fat is added in order to make it juicier and tasty.
Manti is usually served with suzma, a fermented milk product that resembles curdled milk though a different taste. So juicy and soft!
7. Chuchvara: Uzbek Ravioli
Chuchvara, called dumplings in other nations, is common nationwide. It consists of meat, onions, and dough which is stuffed with a minced meat and chopped onions mixture.
Uzbeks have several unique ways of cooking this delicate food: boiling, frying, and added to a broth. Most often it is served with cream. There are pre-cooked variants in supermarkets but Uzbeks prefer them homemade. I recommend you to try it even just once in a lifetime!
8. Tukhum (Egg) Barak
The meal, called yumurta barak, comes from the Khorezm region is rarely consumed anywhere else. Barak means dumplings in Arabic. It is very nutritious and it is considered to help stabilize the blood pressure.
The dough is made from water, salt, and flour and should be stiff. For the stuffing, you need to add as many tablespoons of butter, milk, or saltwater, as eggs are used. For instance, for 1 egg you should add 1 tbsp. of butter,1 tbsp. of milk or saltwater. All the ingredients are mixed well.
The next step, the most complex one, is putting the stuffing into the dough and requires quite a lot of experience. The baraks are boiled in water until they rise to the surface and are usually served with sour cream.
9. Uzbek Kebab
Kebab is the “royal dish” of Uzbek cuisine and is served at gatherings with friends and family. It features a base of beef, fat or suet, onions, salt, and spices such as cumin and coriander.
Before cooking, the meat is marinated. It is traditionally marinated in vinegar or musallas, although nowadays, it is common to marinate with mayonnaise, ketchup, beer, and various juices, particularly pomegranate juice. Next, the beef is cut into semi-small pieces. Then the onion is sliced into rings and sprinkled with salt. Everything is mixed thoroughly. Also, garlic and verdures can be added to the mince.
The food is rotated over well-heated coals. Kebab is usually eaten with fresh sliced onions and it tastes wonderful!
10. Tandoor Lamb: The Uzbek Steak
This very unique dish is made with a base of lamb, cumin, pine nuts, and no other spices. The best meat for this dish is mutton because it is more soft and sophisticated than others. Parsley and cumin seeds are sprinkled on each cut of meat. The best part of tandoor lamb is its pleasant aroma.
For cooking the meat, a tandoor, a hole with a diameter of 1 meter and a depth of 1.5 meters, is constructed. Large stones are heated by the oven fire. Before the meat is put into the tandoor, a large basin is placed on the bottom to collect the fat as it melts. Fir tree branches are placed around the basin and the tandoor is closed and thoroughly covered with mud.
The meat is cooked in the tandoor for about three hours. Not simple, but perfect! Very soft and delicious!
11. Ijjon (Raw Minced Meat)
Ijjon is widely consumed in Khiva, a 1500-year old city from the Xorazm Region in Uzbekistan. What makes it really special is that it is made from raw meat, similar to the French steak tartare.
The meat is continuously chopped with an ax on the wooden board. The people believe that the meat is cooked during the chopping process. If you are reluctant to eat raw meat, they will tell you it is no longer raw as it has been ground for so long.
Leaves of the basilica are placed on the top, giving a very special aroma.
12. Nukhat Shurak (Chickpea Soup)
Time for a light soup, called nukhat shurak. This is mainly prepared in the Samarkand region as chickpeas mostly grow in this area.
Chickpeas, have been used for medical purposes since ancient times. Because they are so healthy, they became the main daily food in the region. Chickpeas have many names in Uzbekistan, such as nuhat, nahut, nahot, and nukhut. Moreover, chickpeas are a great substitute for meat for vegetarians.
The soup is usually prepared with mutton meat and fat, carrot, onions, paprika, coriander, and the main component, chickpeas. They are soaked in water the day before cooking. Firstly, the meat is fried in the melted fat and then the other ingredients are added in turn. Next, the soaked chickpeas are put into the pot and it is all covered with water. As it boils, the water evaporates, the chickpeas soften, leaving only the thick juices. It is often served with fresh greens and onions.
Another healthy option, dimlama is a stew of meat and vegetables such as potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, eggplants, tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, and additional fruits. It may also include different types of greens and condiments. All the vegetables are cut into large pieces and put in a pot to cook in their own juices on a low heat for a long time.
The meal is usually cooked in the spring and summer when there is a wide choice of vegetables. Moreover, older generations prefer this food as it aids digestion and is full of vitamins.
14. Mastava Soup
Mastava is one of the simplest and the most common meals for Uzbek families. It is quick to make yet the perfect combination of tastes and textures. It consists of beef or lamb, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, rice, salt and spices (black pepper and cumin), and water.
The meat is fried in melted fat and the other vegetables are added one a a time. After they have fried for a while, the water is poured in. Once the water has boiled, the rice is added. This dish is mostly prepared for the sick and elderly as it is full of heath essentials. Very easy and healthy!
Khasip is a traditional homemade sausage made to a special recipe. The flavor is wonderful and the aroma is truly seductive! It is prepared by putting the minced meat and rice into cleaned cattle or sheep intestines. Then the sausages are boiled in water for one hour. The preparation process is very complicated and usually done by professionals. It is served with fresh onions sprinkled with cumin.