Uzbek national cuisine
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Though the nation of Uzbekistan
is relatively new, gaining independence only after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in
1991, their culture is one of the more ancient and refined in Central Asia. One
particularly distinctive and well-developed aspect of Uzbek culture is their cuisine.
Unlike their nomadic neighbours, the Uzbeks have had a settled civilization for centuries.
Between the deserts and mountains, in the oases and fertile valleys, they cultivated grain
and domesticated livestock. The resulting abundance of produce allowed them to express
their strong tradition of hospitality, which in turn enriched their cuisine.
The seasons, specifically winter and summer, greatly influence the
composition of the basic menu. In the summer, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are ubiquitous.
Fruits grow in abundance in Uzbekistan - grapes, melons, apricots, pears, apples,
cherries, pomegranates, lemons, figs, dates. Vegetables are no less plentiful, including
some lesser know species such as green radishes, yellow carrots, dozens of pumpkin and
squash varieties, in addition to the usual eggplants, peppers, turnips, cucumbers, and
The winter diet traditionally consists of dried fruits and vegetables
and preserves. Hearty noodle or pasta-type dishes are also common chilly-weather fare.
general, mutton is the preferred source of protein in the Uzbek diet. Fatty-tailed sheep
are prized not only for their meat and fat as a source of cooking oil, but for their wool
as well. Beef and horsemeat are also consumed in substantial quantities. Camel and goat
meat are less common. The wide array of breads, leavened and unleavened, is a staple for
the majority of the population. Flat bread, or nan, is usually baked in tandoor ovens, and
served with tea, not to mention at every meal. Some varieties are prepared with onions or
meat in the dough, others topped with sesame seeds or kalonji.
Central Asia has a reputation for the richness and delicacy of their
fermented dairy products. The most predominant - katyk, or yoghurt made from sour milk,
and suzma, strained clotted milk similar to cottage cheese, are eaten plain, in salads, or
added to soups and main courses as a garnish. Many doughs and batters are also made with
sour milk products, resulting in a unique and delicious flavor.
Palov, the Uzbek version of pilaff, is the flagship of their cookery.
It consists mainly of fried and boiled meat, onions, carrots and rice; with raisins,
barberries, chickpeas, or fruit added for variation. Uzbek men pride themselves on their
ability to prepare the most unique and sumptuous palov. The oshpaz, or master chef, often
cooks palov over an open flame, sometimes serving up to 1000 people from a single cauldron
on holidays or occasions such as weddings. It certainly takes years of practice with no
room for failure to prepare a dish, at times, containing up to 100 kilograms of rice.
Uzbek dishes are not notably hot and fiery, though certainly flavorful.
Some of their principle spices are black cumin, red and black pepper, barberries,
coriander, and sesame seeds. The more common herbs are cilantro (fresh coriander), dill,
parsley, celeriac, and basil. Other seasonings include wine vinegar, liberally applied to
salads and marinades, and fermented milk products.
Tea is revered in the finest oriental traditions. It is offered first
to any guest and there exists a whole subset of mores surrounding the preparation,
offering, and consuming of tea. Green tea is the drink of hospitality and predominant.
Black tea is preferred in Tashkent, though both teas are seldom taken with milk or sugar.
An entire portion of their cuisine is dedicated solely to tea drinking. Some of these
include samsa, bread, halva, and various fried foods.
The chai-khana (teahouse) is a cornerstone of traditional Uzbek
society. Always shaded, preferably situated near a cool stream, the chai-khana is a
gathering place for social interaction and
fraternity. Robed Uzbek men congregate around low tables centered on beds adorned with
ancient carpets, enjoying delicious palov, kebab and endless cups of green tea.
Contemporary Uzbek cuisine continues to develop, reflecting the ethnic
diversity within its own borders. Traces, if not entire dishes, are of Tartar, Dungan,
Russian, Korean, German, and Tajik origin. We hope that these pages provide the reader
with a colorful introduction to the exciting world of Uzbek cooking. Bon appetite!
The recipts given here is for the family which consist of 4-5 men.
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