Uzbek Cuisine

Influenced by diverse cultures that in the long history have been brought here by various nations conquering Central Asia, the national Uzbek cuisine has formed into a unique oriental cuisine.

The basic ingredients of Uzbek dishes are flour, meat (usually mutton), fat of a sheep’s tail, vegetables, herbs and spices, and, in almost all food, a considerable amount of oil of different sorts - that of cottonseed, sesame or sunflower, which make Uzbek food highly nourishing and rich in calories. Pork is never used in the Uzbek cuisine. Some of the Uzbek dishes are cooked only by men, while others exclusively by women. The cooking of some special dishes is connected with particular holidays and festivals, important events and beliefs.

Uzbekistan's signature dish is palov (also spelled pilaff, plov, pilau, pilav, polow, pulaw, pulao, osh), typically made with rice, meat, grated carrots, onions and special spices.

Herbs and spices, such as coriander, zira (zra, kumin), barberries, sesame, basil (raihon), and others, are special features of Uzbek food, some of them whetting your appetite, and others having curative effect. Katik (sour milk, classic yogurt, also spelled katyk, qatiq, qatyq) is also a common ingredient in Uzbek food, together with the summer radish, which is not so pungent as the black radish, and even sweet if cooked with carrot in oil.

The dishes of the Uzbek cuisine are often cooked with the use of special devices and kitchen utensils:

- kaskan (steamer). Some of the Uzbek dishes, such as manty and khanuma (other notable uzbek national dishes), acquire their original taste only if steamed in a special pot - kaskan with removable grids;

- tandir oven (also spelled tandyr, tandoor), a Central Asian clay oven. Tandir is handmade and has the form of a huge clay jug, placed vertically or horizontally. Horizontal tandirs are used for baking traditional Uzbek bread, while vertical ones are more suitable for samsa pasties (also spelled somsa, samosa, samoosa);

- kazan, a cast-iron cauldron with thick walls. There are a number of Uzbek dishes that can be cooked only in a kazan over an open fire, for it retains heat well and distributes it evenly.

The national tableware, in which food is traditionally served, includes:

- kosa eating bowl (also spelled kasa, kese, qosa, qasa). Usually used for shurpa - a delicious soup made of meat and vegetables; lagman and norin, noodle-based dishes;

- lagan, a large dish decorated with traditional painting for serving pilaf, manty, dimlama (a meat and vegetable stew) and various kebabs;

- piala, a small kosa for tea - green tea is the national hot beverage taken throughout the day.

In Uzbekistan traditionally teahouses (chaikhanas) are very popular and have a cultural importance. Green or black tea always accompanies a meal and is typically taken without milk or sugar. Tea and oriental sweets are automatically offered to every guest as a symbol of hospitality.

Traditionally Uzbeks have meals on the floor or, in summertime, on a topchan (a large wooden bed of a particular shape), on which they put a short-legged table and cover it with a dastarhan (tablecloth); very often they manage without the table, simply spreading the dastarhan on the floor or on a topchan. Around the dastarhan they put colourful kurpachas (kurpacha is a traditional Central Asian thick cotton-wool blanket / mattress) and small cushions, so that guests can have a little rest after a nourishing dinner.

However, it is not only the natural, fresh and salutary ingredients, special kitchen utensils or traditional ways of having a meal that makes the Uzbek cuisine so original and attractive, but the famous, infinite Central Asian hospitality!


Dishes of Uzbek Cuisine

Uzbek Plov. Varieties, Myths and Legends

Dishes similar to plov made of rice, meat, onions and carrots may be found all over the world but, however delicious, they are not the real thing. To taste this genuine wonder of eastern cuisine you have to go to Uzbekistan, where delicious aromas abound and wonderful recipes have been developed and perfected over the centuries. Uzbek plov is famous, a favorite of tourists, and chefs vie to prove their recipe is the best. Plov is known and loved throughout Central Asia, but it is Uzbekistan where it originates and where the best varieties are to be found. Here plov accompanies momentous events from birth to holidays, anniversaries, weddings, family reunions and wakes.

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Sumalak, the main Holiday Dish of Navruz

Sumalak (a wheat bran pudding) is a dish cooked exclusively for spring festival of Navruz and thus available for tasting only once a year. Sumalak is very tasty, invigorating and restores one’s strength lost in the course of the winter. Today we do not know exactly who was the first to cook this ritual dish based on sprouting wheat grains and when they did it. Nevertheless, every year in the last days of March all regions of Uzbekistan witness the appearance of huge cauldrons in the streets and in courts together with great numbers of people talking merrily and dancing around them. This is ‘Sumalak sayli’ (the sumalak holiday), which calls people to friendship, fraternity and cooperation.

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Traditional Uzbek Breads


Bread is highly esteemed by Asian people. Children in Asia are taught to revere bread from early childhood. In Uzbekistan there are a lot of rites and rituals connected with traditional Uzbek breads (locals call it non, patir or lepeshka in Russian). For instance, a person setting off on a long travel must eat a small piece of bread, while the rest of the loaf is kept until he returns. There is an engagement ritual of ‘breaking of bread’ (it cannot be cut as, according to a belief, the knife may hurt the bread), which is performed to confirm an agreement between parents upon a marriage between their children. The most serious vows are also spoken on bread, as for Asians there is nothing worse in the world than to break such a vow.

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Uzbek Samosa (Samsa)

Samosa (also spelled samsa, somsa, samoosa, sambosak, sambusa, singada, samuza, somasi, somas) is an Uzbek food consisting of flaky pasties with various fillings, both served at ceremonies and eaten in an everyday life. Samosa may have different shapes and forms and be cooked in a multiplicity of ways. Today’s samosa is usually filled with meat (mutton, chicken or beef), vegetables (pumpkin, potato or onion), mushrooms, eggs, peas, herbs or even sweet substances. However, as in most of the Uzbek dishes, it is the spices, such as zira (zra, kumin), black and red hot pepper, and sesame (covering samosa on the top), that make the taste of the pasties really unique.

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Which, in your opinion, is the best beverage to quench your thirst in the unbearable Asian heat? Russian kvass? Mineral water? Hot green tea? Or, perhaps, koumiss (also spelled kumiss or kumis) with its peculiar taste? Sourish and sweetish, slightly intoxicating and instantly invigorating, smacking at once of kvass, kefir and even wine, authentic koumiss has a rather specific flavour, which may cause dislike in those who drink it for the first time. However, after you have tasted it several times you will appreciate this ancient beverage of Asian nomads, who knew a lot about horses and exhausting heat, and realize that there is no better thing to satisfy your thirst on a hot summer day, particularly if you are somewhere in a steppe or in the mountains.

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Uzbek Manti

Uzbek Manti

Manti (Manty, Manties or Mantu) is a dish of Uzbek cuisine that has the form of large dumplings filled with meat and steamed in a special pot. Manti is a true ‘nomad’: it first came to Central Asia from China, and then its various versions spread to Russia and other European countries. Manti is a meal usually cooked for dinner or supper. It is served in a large lagan (dish), and then each person puts the amount of manti he wants into their plate. In Uzbekistan manti, like most of the other Uzbek dishes, is traditionally eaten with the hands.

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Shurpa (also spelled shourpa, shorwa, shorpo, сhorba, shorba, shorpa, shorpo, sorpa) is a rich and thick soup that will help you enhance your physical power and regain strength if you have lost it, ranks among the foremost first-course dishes of the Uzbek cuisine. There are two main types of this dish - kaynatma shurpa and kovurma shurpa, which differ mainly in the way of their preparation; however, there actually is a great variety of recipes of cooking shurpa, as each region of Uzbekistan prides itself upon its own specificities and secrets.

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Kazy is a sausage-like food made of horse meat, delicately aromatic and incredibly delicious. Kazy is a homemade sausage never produced on a large scale to be sold in supermarkets or exported as other sausages are. Kazy does not contain any chemical additives. The sausage is made of horse meat and fat, with the addition of spices – black pepper, garlic, zira and others, all these being packed in horse intestines (a natural product). Usually, kazy is made of the fat meat from the ribs.

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