Regional delicacies

Flavours of Central Asia – 10 popular dishes of Central Asia

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Central Asia is also known as Land of Stans, which includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan & Tajikistan. This land is mostly isolated and not discovered by the the world properly. Many people even don’t know the name of the countries of central asia. But in the past, this region had its glory among west as well as east because of the silk route (ancient trade route which connects europe with the asia). Central asia have a vibrant tribal culture which still exists in modern world.

This land gave birth to ferocious warriors and leaders who build mighty empires in the asian subcontinent. Central Asia countries have muslim majority population. Islam entered this land in the early 9th century. And its still the major religion in the region. This region was centre of Art and philosophy during the golden age of muslim world. In 20th century, this region was under soviet rule and got its independence in 1991 after the dissolution of Soviet state, which makes the Stan countries one of the newest nations in the world. The region might have divided in different nations but the culture, traditions and food is somewhat very similar.

Food of the Stans

 

central asian food table

Central asian food is an amalgamation of different cultures brought together. Since it was part of silk route, traders around the world brought the delicacies to the region and the local gave it there own twist which fascinates me more about the the regional food of central asia. Every neighbouring territory around the central asia have there influence on its cuisine. Like kebabs, dips, shasliks, rice preparation & bread have its influences from the middle east. Dumplings, regional noodles dishes and broths have the east asian influence. One can also see the russian version of food in the region since it was the part of soviet republic. The Turkic inhabitant too have there own delicacies like horsemeat sausage which makes the cuisine unique. The people of the stans have adopted the foreign culinary techniques and ingredients to make there own cuisine more interesting and amazing. Now lets dig around some of the popular dishes of the stan countries.
 

1. PLOV

central asian rice preparation

 
Plov is a rice preparation made with either beef or mutton with chickpeas, yellow carrot, barberries, raisins and served with a boil egg and horsemeat sausage. It is prepared in a huge vessel locally known as kazan (or deghi). Plov is the national dish of Uzbekistan, but is equally popular in the neighbouring countries too. Osh plov is the Kyrgyzstani version of plov which is very popular around the country. Each countries in central asia have their version of plov and they take lot of pride preparing the local plov and enjoy it with there friends and family.
 

2. MANTI

 
Manti is the Turkic version of dumplings served with yoghurt and chilli oil. it is one of the popular dish in central asia and even in Russia (known as pelmeni) & Afghanistan (known as mantu) with slight changes in the recipe. The origin of this dumpling is still uncertain, but many food historians believes that it came from china. In China, it is known as mantou and gradually got popular all around the region. Manti is a simple dumpling which is made from beef. The thing which makes it different from its east asian cousins is that it is served with yogurt. Which gives the dish a complete different flavour profile and dimension which separates manti from other meat dumplings from east asia.
 

3. SAMSA

 
Samsa is the go to snack in central asia, samsa generally have mutton and onion filling. More specifically it has the meat from the dumba sheep (fat-tail sheep) the fat from dumba makes it more rich and mouth melting. The outer covering is made of layered pastry which gives needed crispy and flaky texture to the dish. It is traditionally cooked in the tandyr  (clay oven same as tandoor). Which gives the smoky flavour to it. so this dish have everything to give, meaty hearty filling, flaky and crispy pastry and smoky flavour what else one need. It is generally eaten with a hot cup of tea with friends and family around you.
 

4. LAGHMAN PULLED NOODLES

 
Laghman noodles were originated in Xinjiang Province of China, and is very popular meal of Uyghur Muslims. Silk route took this noodle dish to its neighbouring states and they welcomed it with open arms. And Laghman noodles became a part of central asian cuisine. It gets its name from chinese word La mian which means hand pulled noodles. Laghman noodles can be prepared as per one preference, it can be used in stews, soups & stir fries. All the version is equally popular in the region. Making laghman noodles is a skilful job and watching it prepared is a blissful view. It is generally prepared with meat, vegetables and a local special laghman sauce which varies region to region.
 

5. DIMLAMA

 
Dimlama is made from the combination of meat (mutton, beef or veal), potato, onion, various other vegetable and sometimes fruits. Meat and vegetable is cut into large chunks and cook in tightly sealed pot on low flame. The food inside the pot is cooked with its own juices which makes this simple and easy dish super delicious. This dish is generally prepare during harvest season with fresh vegetable pluck directly from farm. Every family have its own dimlama recipe but potatoes, onion, carrots, bell pepper and garlic is something standardised for the recipe.
 

6. CHUCHVARA SOUP

Chuchvara soup is a dumpling based soup, popular around central asia including Azerbaijan and some parts of Iran. The dumplings are generally made from ground beef, onion, potatoes, thyme and black pepper, the filling is then filled in rich dough sheet and is poached in simple mutton broth. This dumplings can also be eaten without the broth, with either any local sauce, smetana (sour cream) or with vinegar. The thing which makes the this dish special is the simplicity of the dish, dumplings are the real comfort food of the region and turkic people eats dumpling at any time of the day, either in the form of manti or chuchvara soup.

7. BESHBARMAK

 
Beshbarmak is a traditional nomadic dish from Kazakhstan. The name of the dish means five fingers, since the dish is eaten with finger in the traditional way. Horsemeat, mutton and beef is cooked and place over handmade thin pasta sheet and dress with broth, onion and herbs. Eating beshbarmak is a ritual in nomadic tribe. The cuts of meat are distributed according to the rank, age and gender of a person. Beshbarmak is the centre food of the Kazakh tribes and is prepare only during festivals and occasions to celebrate.
 

8. KAZY

 

Kazy is a horsemeat sausage traditionally from kazakhstan, but also enjoyed in neighbouring countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Horsemeat is most popular meat in Kazakhstan and eaten in almost every meal. Traditionally, the sausage is made from the meat and fat from the ribs of the horse. It is generally seasoned with garlic, pepper and salt before stuffing into natural casing. The sausage is sold either raw or lightly smoke. Usually it is boiled before consumption and served slice. It is most consume as appetizer but also combine with other dishes, like plov. One of the element of plov is kazy sausage which is topped on the plov rice.

9. QURUTOB

 
Qurutob is a popular dish in Tajikistan, it is made by dissolving qurut (local salted cheese ball) into meat stock or simply water, adding crumbled non or fatir (local flatbread) and let it soak the cheesy stock. The dish is seasoned with melted butter and topped with onion and some fresh  vegetables like tomato, cucumber, bell peppers. Also one can top the dish with cooked chunks of lamb. Traditionally, this dish is vegetarian. But, you can find the meaty version of this dish been served in the restaurant in Dushanbe.
 

10. BORSOK

Borsok is a sweet dish from Kyrgyzstan, but it is popular around the region. It is is basically a doughnut, made from fermented dough cut into square and deep fried until golden brown. You can enjoy it with honey, jams, chocolate dips and many more. Some people in the region also make savoury borsok and eat it with different sauces as a snack. But traditionally, Borsok is dipped in fresh cream and then consumed.


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