The most important tip I can give you on Uzbekistan local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Uzbekistan, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in
When you go to restaurants, always ask for menu or price if they do not provide one. While some of the well-established restaurants are surprisingly good value by Western standard, some of the random or less popular restaurants try to take advantage of tourists by ripping off up to 5 times of normal price. Osh (Plov) is the national dish. It’s made of rice, carrots, onions, and mutton, and you will eat it if you go to Uzbekistan. Each region has its own way of cooking plov, so you should taste it in different places.
According to the legend plov was invented by the cooks of Alexander the Great. Plov can also be made with peas, carrots, raisins, dried apricots, pumpkins or quinces. Often spices as peppers, crushed or dried tomatoes are added. Chuchvara – similar to ravioli and stuffed with mutton and onions (aka ‘pelmeni’ in Russian). Manti – lamb and onion filled dumpling-like food, often with onions, peppers and mutton fat. Somsa, which are pastry pockets filled with beef, mutton, pumpkin or potatoes.
In spring time “green somsas” are made from so-called “yalpiz” a kind of grass which grows in the mountains and in rural parts of regions. And the amazing thing is people just pick them up for free and make tasty somsas. You can find somsas being cooked and sold on the streets. Lagman – thick soup with meat, potatoes, spices, vegetables and pasta. By right, it should include 50 ingredients. Often carrot, red beet, cabbage, radish, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and onions are added.
The noodles should be very thin. Shashlik – grilled meat. Usually served only with onions. Veal or mutton is marinated in salt, peppers and vinegar and eight to ten pieces of meat are grilled on a spit over the open fire. Bread – Uzbeks eat lots of bread (in uzbek its called non). Round bread is called lepioshka. You can buy it anywhere, while in the bazar it costs around 400 sum. Samarkand is very famous for the bread. The characteristic Samarkand bread obi-non is traditionally baked in clay furnaces.
Bread is served to every meal. Mastava. rice soup with pieces of onion, carrots, tomatoes, peas and eventually wild plums Shurpa. soup of mutton (sometimes beef), vegetables Beshbarmak. a speciality of the nomad kazakhs, boiled meat of sheep or ox and pieces of liver, served with onions, potatoes and noodles Being an historic crossroads and part of numerous empires, Uzbek food is very eclectic in its origins. Indian, Iranian, Arab, Russian, and Chinese influences are present in this unique cuisine.
What to Drink in Uzbekistan
Tea, particularly green tea, is a national drink of Uzbekistan. Vodka is also famous though, as a result of more than a century of Russian domination of the land. Tea is served virtually everywhere: home, office, cafes, etc. Uzbek people drink black tea in winter and green tea in summer, instead of water. If tea is served in the traditional manner, the server will pour tea into a cup from the teapot and then pour the tea back into the teapot. This action is repeated three times.
These repetitions symbolize loy (clay) which seals thirst, moy (grease) which isolates from the cold and the danger and tchai (tea or water) which extinguishes the fire. If you are being served tea in an Uzbek home, the host will attempt at all times to make sure your cup is never filled. If the host fills your cup, it probably means that it is time for you to leave, but this occurs really rarely, because Uzbeks are very hospitable. The left hand is considered impure. The tea and the cups are given and taken by the right hand.
A mind-numbing variety of brands of wine and vodka are available almost everywhere. Wine produced in Uzbekistan has won numerous international prestigious awards for a high quality. There’s nothing to wonder about, since sun in this country shines almost every day. Although Uzbekistan is predominately Muslim, for the most part the Islam practiced there tends to be more cultural than religious. Beer is available in every shop and is treated as soft drink and does not require any license to sell.
There are special licensed shops selling Vodka, Wine and other Drinks. Russian made vodka is available in only few shops. Kimiz is an alcoholic, prepared from mares’ milk. Visitors should consider tap water to be unsafe to drink in regions, while in capital of Uzbekistan the water is safe for drinking. In any case drinking bottled water is advised. Nightlife In Tashkent there are various night (dance) clubs and restaurants. They usually work till late night/early morning. Take enough cash because drinks and snacks are much more expensive than in daytime restaurants. Also you can find overnight Uzbek “chill-out” restaurants where you enjoy traditional food laying on large wooden sofas (tapchans/suri). It is not recommended to hang out on the street or parks after 11 p.m. Even if you do not face problems with criminals you definitely attract unwanted interest of local police(militsiya) patrolling the area.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.