What do you eat in Uzbekistan: typical dishes, advice and curiosities on Uzbek cuisine

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Uzbek cuisine is very simple and based on basic ingredients such as meat, rice, vegetables and yogurt while, for obvious geographical reasons, fish is almost non-existent. Typically, the dishes are very caloric, substantial and abundantly spiced.

Il bread, nan, plays a fundamental role. It comes in the form of a more or less thin loaf depending on the area. Of any shape and size, the bread is always baked in the tandoori oven and, like a trademark, the center of the loaf is "stamped" with a stencil, a symbol of good luck. The national dish is Plov, always present at weddings and important parties. Rice and meat are the basis of this dish then, each family has its own secret recipe. Moreover, despite being a Muslim country, in Uzbekistan the alcohol is allowed, and any occasion is good to celebrate with vodka. The desserts, made with honey and dried fruit, are clearly of Turkish origin.

Did we put some curiosity into you? So here's one small guide on what is magic in Ubzekista: typical dishes, advice and curiosities!


  1. 10 Typical dishes of Uzbekistan
  2. Typical sweets of Uzbekistan
  3. Drinks and liqueurs: what you drink in Uzbekistan
  4. Tips and trivia: where to eat and what to avoid
  5. User questions and comments

10 Typical dishes of Uzbekistan

1 - Plov

Pride of national cuisine it is Plov, served everywhere and in many variations. It is about rice left to cook in the zirvak, gravy based on fried or stewed meat (usually mutton or goat), carrots, onions, and vegetables that change depending on the location: cumin, raisins, chilli etc ...

It is served on a large serving dish placed in the center of the table: a mountain of rice sprinkled with the intigolo and the pieces of the various ingredients. As decoration, hardened quail eggs are often cut in half. It is certainly a very substantial and not particularly light dish and is always present during important events such as weddings, parties and meetings!

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 8,00
  • Main ingredients: rice, meat, vegetables, spices

2 - Samsa

Puff pastry bundle filled with meat, chopped onions and vegetables (pumpkin, cabbage, walnuts, potatoes, mushrooms ...) cooked in the tandoori oven, traditional clay oven, cylindrical in shape, heated with charcoal, a very evident legacy of contamination with Indian culture.

The Samsa they are found everywhere. They are sold at market stalls to buy and eat immediately on the spot as a snack at any time of the day. It is not uncommon for them to also be served as an appetizer at the restaurant at the start of a full meal. IS' a must for snacks since it is served on the Uzbekistan Airlines flight and also on the fast train from Samarkand to Tashkent.

  • Recommended to: snack
  • Average cost: € 0,80
  • Main ingredients: puff pastry, meat, onions

3 - Bread

National pride after plov is bread. The bread is sold and served on the table in its original loaf form. TO according to the production areas it takes on different connotations: in the west (eg Khiva) it is thin and looks more like our wraps, as you move towards the east (Samarkand) it looks more like a focaccia with raised edges.

It is cooked in the tandoori oven, a stone oven of Indian origin which is heated with embers. Once the temperature is reached, the dough is placed on the burning walls and in a few minutes it is ready.

The surface of the bread is often sprinkled with poppy seeds but, above all, the loaf is stamped (a sort of trademark) with a stencil with nailed ends, which reproduce a circular symbol of good luck and prosperity, recalling the suzani, the typical decoration of Uzbek carpets and mandalas.

  • Recommended to: always
  • Average cost: € 0,40 per kg
  • Main ingredients: flour

4 - Dimlama

The Dimlama is a stew of Turkish origin of lamb or mutton (sometimes also veal and beef) and vegetables cut into large pieces. Vegetables for Dimlama include, in addition to potatoes and onions, carrots, savoy cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. The everything is abundantly spiced with garlic, cumin, herbs and spices, primarily dill.

The various ingredients are placed in layers in a well-sealed pot and everything is cooked slowly in their juices. The Dimlama comes usually cooked during the spring and summer when there is a large choice of vegetables. It is served in the center of the table on a large plate and eaten with a spoon.

  • Recommended to: lunch, dinner (main course, main course)
  • Average cost: € 8,00
  • Main ingredients: meat, vegetables

5 - Shaslik

Similar to kebab, Shaslik consists of pieces of mutton, lamb, chicken or goat cooked on a spit or on the grill. The pieces of meat come served skewered on steel skewers and season an exorbitant amount of raw onion slices.

There is also the version called lyulya which includes a mixture of mutton and spices.

Usually the Shaslik he is accompanied by the Adjika, a red and spicy sauce made from chillies.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 6,00
  • Main ingredients: meat

6 - Manti

The Manti are large stuffed steamed ravioli minced meat (lamb or beef) and marinated with onion and various spices. They are served sprinkled with dill and sour cream.

There is no single recipe for the filling, it is therefore impossible to know the flavor of what will arrive on the plate. The same can be said for shape and size which vary from place to place and from home to home. Both in shape and taste they are very similar to Chinese steamed dumplings and Japanese gyoza.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 3,00
  • Main ingredients: pasta, meat

7 - Lagman

Noodle soup, chopped meat (beef or lamb) and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions). Obviously all abundantly spiced with herbs and aromas. Tradition has it that the ad hoc recipe provides that the taglierini are handmade.

It is served already portioned in individual bowls for each diner. The Lagman can be seen as one Central Asian version of Japanese ramen.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 2,00
  • Main ingredients: meat, noodles, broth

8 - Shurpa

The Shurpa is one very thick soup based on meat (lamb or mutton), potatoes, various coarsely chopped vegetables (tomatoes, carrots and onions), aromatic herbs and oriental spices.

It is a rather fat dish, so a lot caloric and invigorating suitable for severe winters. Due to its nutritional characteristics, it is often served to convalescing and still debilitated people to promote healing.

There are two versions: Kaytnama based on fresh meat and Kovurma based on fried meat. The first option, healthier and lighter, requires the meat to be boiled and the raw vegetables added to the broth and cooked over low and slow heat; in the second version, both the meat and the vegetables are first fried and then added to the broth (prepared separately).

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 3,00
  • Main ingredients: meat, vegetables, broth

9 - Bademjan

Uzbek tradition provides that the meal is opened by an appetizer that precedes the various courses, and this appetizer generally consists of a salad.

Among the various salads, the Bademjan is the most widespread. A salad of baked or fried eggplant, mixed with slices of radish and thin slices of pepper. All laid on a bed of fresh salad, dressed with oil and sprinkled with parsley. A tasty and appetizing dish. Bademjan, like all salads, comes served in the center of the table in a rather small saucer so that all diners can enjoy a little without spoiling their appetite for important dishes.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 1,50
  • Main ingredients: aubergines, radishes, peppers

10 - Achichuk salad

Another typical dish served as an appetizer is the Achichuk salad. Much like the salads that can be found in North Africa and the Middle East, the basic ingredients are raw tomatoes, cucumbers and white onions. All seasoned with oil and the inevitable spices.

For a more consistent version, sometimes, it is served with pieces of low-fat cheese similar to first salt or feta cheese. A light, healthy and completely vegetarian option, but still delicious and tasty.

  • Recommended to: Lunch Dinner
  • Average cost: € 1,20
  • Main ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions

Typical sweets of Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan there is no great pastry culture. The few sweets that can be found are basically based on dried fruit, honey, sugar, egg white. Very evident Turkish and Middle Eastern derivation, they are obviously very sweet, sometimes cloying.

At the table they are mostly served single portions as biscuits while, at the market, you can find real cakes / tiles of dough that are cut and sold by weight.

1 - Halva

Halva is a very popular dessert in both Uzbekistan and neighboring Tajikistan. It is a mushy dough consisting of sugar syrup, egg whites and sesame seeds.

The preparation requires that the sugar is worked, together with the egg white, by pulling and stretching it repeatedly until a white color is obtained. Once the sweet dough has reached the desired consistency, add the sesame seeds (and sometimes even pieces of dried fruit such as almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts). The dough is then placed in trays and allowed to solidify. The result are whitish and sticky tiles displayed on the market stalls. Visually, it closely resembles the numerous variations of nougat, elaborated and flavored, which we now also find here.

  • Average cost: € 2,00 per pound
  • Main ingredients: sugar, egg whites, sesame

2 - Dried fruit

As in all Maghreb and Middle East countries,dried fruit occupies a prevalent place in the homes of Uzbeks who consume it widely.

At the market there are inside counters that sell exclusively dried fruit, by weight or even in mixed and prepackaged trays to be used as a gift. Any type of fruit is found in dried form: from common figs and dates to the most unusual (in our eyes) kiwi, apricot, melon etc ...

Of course, there is no lack of real dried fruit: walnuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds etc. The latter come purchased in small quantities and consumed at the moment. It is not uncommon to meet Uzbeks strolling through the market or the street munching on seeds as a snack.

  • Average cost: from € 1,00 per kg
  • Main ingredients: figs, dates, walnuts, sesame, sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts etc ...

3 - Ciak ciak

The Ciak Ciak is a typical sweet of Tartar origin, consisting of a mixture of eggs and flour flavored with vodka.

From the dough you get broken spaghetti, to be fried in boiling oil. Once cooled, everything is held together by honey, dissolved with sugar in a saucepan, and finally covered with chopped nuts. It looks a lot like Struffoli, a Neapolitan Christmas tradition, and Cicerchiata, prepared for Carnival in central and southern Italy.

  • Average cost: € 0,50 per pound
  • Main ingredients: eggs, flour, vodka, honey

Drinks and liqueurs: what you drink in Uzbekistan

Although Uzbekistan is a Muslim country, alcohol is widespread. Beer is very common, as is beer vodka, an explicit legacy of Soviet domination, and other spirits.

Among the soft drinks the tea is omnipresent and there are particular customs and rites for its preparation. Green tea is the drink of hospitality across the country. Black tea is a must in the capital, where it is served to accompany samsa, bread and fried food. The "Choyxona", the tea house, is a very important meeting center for Uzbek society where men and women usually gather to interact and discuss.
At the end of the meal, a teapot of tea is always brought to the table without being asked.

1 - Vodka

From a good Russian tradition, Uzbeks prefer vodka to toast and celebrate. This spirit is not only used to celebrate events, holidays and special occasions; often vodka it even replaces normal meal drinks, especially when you have guests at the table.

The Uzbeks inherited the tradition of how to toast with vodka from Russia. First of all vodka must be thrown down in one gulp and then the glass is thrown behind you as a sign of good luck and good luck.

  • Average cost: € 2,30 per bottle
  • Main ingredients: alcohol

2 - Beer

Widespread on Uzbek tables is beer. The most popular beer in Uzbekistan is Baltika, whose main office is in St. Petersburg and is practically unknown in Italy. It is the largest beer producer in Eastern Europe and the second in Europe, after Heineken.

Baltika was born under the USSR as a state industry and, after the fall of the wall, was privatized. Yes they can taste different types of Baltika beer indicated with a number ranging from 0 to 10 based on the alcohol content.

  • Average cost: € 1,00 on tap
  • Main ingredients: malt, barley, hops

3 - Tea

Green or black tea is the symbol of hospitality in Uzbekistan. For this reason, a teapot is brought to the table at the end of the meal. Uzbek tea has a full flavor, distinctly different from the sachet drink we are used to.

To prepare an Uzbek tea he comes used a special teapot composed of a base containing the water which, by boiling, pushes the steam into the upper container, where the leaves are placed. In an Uzbek home you will always find a teapot on the fire, also because every occasion is good to drink this tasty drink, possibly in company.

Uzbek tea is very bitter and, as such, should be tasted. Otherwise, if you really need to sweeten it, brown sugar crystals are served to melt in the hot drink.

  • Average cost: € 0,20
  • Main ingredients: you

4 - Katyk

The Katyk is one drink based on yogurt, water and salt very similar to the ayran originating from Turkey and very widespread also in the Balkans.

Katyk is normally based on cow's milk, but the type prepared with goat's milk is also popular. Depending on the milk used and the processing it can have a denser and more solid consistency or a more liquid and light consistency. For the same reasons it can have a more or less strong flavor, from sweet to smoky.

Katyk is usually served very cold to accompany grilled meats or rice dishes as it is considered the drink ideal for counteracting the burning sensation given by very spicy foods.

  • Average cost: € 0,20 per glass
  • Main ingredients: yogurt, water, salt

Tips and trivia: where to eat and what to avoid

The national dish, the Plov, has numerous variations that vary from area to area but also from family to family, each jealously guards, in fact, its secret recipe handed down for generations.

The Uzbeks they eat in typical trattorias and consume snacks and snacks in the markets. For tourists it is advisable to eat in restaurants specially designed for them where there is no à la carte menu but a meal that is the same for everyone is served: entrée with salad, soup, strong dish of stewed or grilled meat and dessert. The loaf of bread is brought whole to the table and must be strictly broken with the hands (knives, by the way, are almost never present). Furthermore, at the entrance of the restaurants there is always a sink to wash your hands as soon as you arrive without having to queue in the bathrooms. Finally, in Samarkand the tradition of eating in private homes is developing, offering typical dishes cooked "in the home mode".

Beware of water: always and only drink bottled water and use it to brush your teeth. For the rest, there are no particular precautions, but know that all dishes are always very spicy. We need to get used to it and adapt.

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