The Uzbek cuisine is one of the most colorful of Oriental Cuisine. You will be amazed to find some of the Uzbek recipes are centuries old with strictly observed rituals.
Uzbek plov is a very solemn dish. It can be considered as an everyday dish as well as dish for solemn and great events like weddings, parties and holidays. Rice is the most important component of plov and special spices, raisins, peas or quince will be added to give it extra flavor.
Bread is considered as holy for the Uzbek people. This traditional belief started in the ancient times and there's a legend behind this. The legend claims that each new Governor would mint his own coin but the payment for the local people for minting new coins were not the coins that were minted but . bread! According to this tradition when someone leaves the family he bites a small piece of Obi-non (Uzbek bread) and then it is buried until the traveler comes back and eat the whole bread.
Special importance is placed on soups. Uzbek's soup is rich with vegetables and seasonings and contains lots of carrots, turnips, onions and greens.
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 which are also dried and used during other times of the year - grapes, melons, apricots, pears, apples, cherries, pomegranates, lemons, figs, dates. Vegetables are no less plentiful, including some lesser known species such as green redishes, yellow carrots, dozen of pumpkin and squash varieties, in addition to the usual eggplants, peppers, turnips, cucumbers and luscious tomatoes.
The winter diet traditionally consists of dried fruits and vegetables and preserves. Hearty noodle or pasta-type dishes are also common chilly-weather fare.
In general, mutton is the preferred source of protein in the Uzbek diet. Fatty-failed sheep are prized not only for their meat and fat as a source of cookingoil, but for their wool as well. Beef and horsemeat are also consumed in substantial quantities. Camel and goat meat are less common.
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 simmilar to cottage cheese, are eaten plain in salads, or added to soups and main 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 chief, often cooks palov over an open flame, sometimes serving up to 1000 people from a single couldron 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.
Morning pilav is usually prepared for special celebrations such as weddings, the circumcision of a son or in respect for someone who has died. Only men attend this early morning function (osh). It is considered bad manners not to respond to an invitation. It is not necessary to bring any gifts. Dress neatly, with cloths that aren't too bright, it is not necessary to wear a tie. Morning osh tarts around from 6 am until 7 am. Approximately 200 people are invited, depending on the family and occasion. Guests take their seats in turn, arrive, sit and while, eat some pilav and then leave. No strong drink is served and toasting is not allowed. Smoking at the table is not recommended.
If you live in Uzbekistan for a long time and make many friends, you will sometimes be expected to visit two or three families in a day for morning osh! Undoubtedly you and your image will increase among your Uzbek friends if you attend these functions.
Shashlyk , known also as kebabs, is skewered chunks of mutton barbecued over charcoal served with sliced raw onions and non (rounds of unleavened bread).
Samsa (meat pies) is a pastry pie stuffed with meat and onion or pumpkin, potato, cabbage, mushrooms or nuts backed in tandyr . Tandyr is a traditional cylindrical clay oven, heated with coal. Skill is needed when placing the raw samsas or non on the inside wall of the oven.
Manty are large dumplings stuffed with finely chopped meat, seasoned with various spices and a large amount of onion, and then steamed in a special pot.
Shurpa is a meat and vegetable soup.
Lagman is a thick noodle soup with thinly sliced fried meat and vegetables.
UZBEK NATIONAL CUISINE
Local mineral water contains a higher level of minerals than western spring or bottled water and the taste can be rather "salty" (these mineral waters are considered healthier than European spring or mineral waters).
Imported spirits and wines are available, however in some places the provenance of some spirits and wines is questionable and the prices inflated. Accordingly, you are recommended to purchase you favourite alcohol duty free prior to arrival.
Green tea is the staple drink of the Uzbeks. C hai-khanas (tea-houses) can be found everywhere in Uzbekistan .
Passengers may wish to express their appreciation - reward for extra service to the porters, waiters, drivers and guides.
There are a few top-end restaurants where a service charge of 5-10% is added to your bill, but tipping is not common in Uzbekistan, and runs contrary to Islamic ideals of hospitality. Bribery, on the other hand, is very popular, but if you choose to use it remember you are pushing up prices for those who follow you.
If you are invited to take part in a wedding ceremony that starts, for example, at 7.00 pm, do not rush to be there on time. You have the time to buy flowers, prepare a gift and arrive as late as, say 9.00 pm. Dress is formal. The bridegroom might be dressed in dark European-style suite, light shirt and dark tie, and the bride will be dressed in beautiful long white wedding dress and veil. There will be no less than 200 guests at the wedding. Music will be playing and there will always be lots of dancing, Uzbek people love to dance! You will be to a table where you and the other guests at your table will drink few glasses of Champaign or other drinks to the health and happiness of the newlyweds. The bride and the groom arrive later. You can present your flowers and gift to the couple when they arrived.
Every time the young couple is congratulated, they are expected to stand up. If you are asked to congratulate them, you will have to make a short speech using the microphone. It is also interesting for other guests if you tell them that you are a foreigner and that this is your first wedding party. Tell them of your impressions at the end, congratulate them and give them your good wishes. Remember that married couples do not kiss each other in public.
You are not expected to stay until the end. It is possible to leave at any time, just excuse yourself from the guests at your table, thank the hosts and leave.
People from Uzbekistan can be chiefly described as hospitable - Uzbek hospitality is something to be experienced. You will certainly find yourself as a guest in an Uzbek house. These guidelines should help you to know what to expect and what to do :
If you are invited for lunch or dinner, please accept the invitation and arrive on time.
When visiting a local family it is acceptable to bring the bottle of good wine or other drink and some kind of gifts such as chocolates, pens, books, records, videocassettes etc. which will be enjoyed by the host's family.
The greeting "ceremony" takes a long time. Handshaking is usually done by men only and with women if they are the first to offer their hand. For people who are sitting further away, a gesture of greeting is made by putting your right hand on your heart, making a slight bow with your head. During the greeting "ceremony", questions are asked about host's relatives, health, work, home, and just about everything else concerning him and his household. Admiring the ladies is not public in Oriental countries.
Traditionally, the shoes are left when entering the house. If the meal is served in the garden, everyone sits on a low supa (it looks like a double bed), covered with flat mattresses called korpas. In that case, you should better to take off your shoes and sit down as pointed by the host. The further you sit from the entrance to the room or garden, the more honoured you are. You may stretch your legs under the table and support yourself with cushions behind you and under your elbow.
The traditional respect for elderly people and the superiority of men is obvious. In rural areas, when entertaining guests, women do not usually share the table with men or take part in their conversation. They have a separate table. The larger cities are, however, more liberal. If you are going to visit within your "partner", she could sit next to you at the men's table, and the host will invite his wife to join this table as well.
First the candies and tea will be served. Then, not before long, the table will be covered with various hot dishes, vegetables, fruit and a variety of cool drinks, and sometimes alcohol.
The most popular Uzbek dish is Pilav. Pilav is served on a large dish (lagan) placed in the centre of the table. Usually everybody eats from one dish, since eating from one dish in considered making people feel intimate, like one big family. You will not offend anyone, however, if you serve some pilav onto your plate from the nearest dish. Sometimes pilav is eaten with the right hand, but eating with a spoon or fork is common.
Be prepared to eat a lot of food! It will be very tasty, since Uzbek food developed during the time of Great Silk Road and has combined the best ancient tastes of Asia.
During the meal special round bread, called non, is served. There are many traditions connected to Uzbek bread. It is never cut with knife. At the start of the meal, it is broken into pieces by hand and placed on the table near each place setting. Try not to place bread upside down (with its flat side up), by placing it the right way up will earn you the respect of the host and those around you. Uzbek people consider brad to be holy and greatly respected.
While at the table you may smoke under host's permission or if he starts to smoke first. Smoking is usually done outside. There is a rule to thank the host far tasty meal, nice party and kind regards within his guests.
Drinking strong alcoholic drinks is accompanied by toasts for friendship between people, mutually beneficial co-operation, the host, and his family's health. After the spoken toast, you need to clink your glass or piola (Uzbek teacup) with all the guests and drink to the end, especially if you are the person raising the toast. If there are number of guests present, you may clink your glass only with those around you.
Another feature of Uzbek people is their appreciation of humour. Most Uzbeks appreciate good joke, they are also enjoy it if you combine a funny story with your toast. You will be served tea throughout the meal (coffee is not very popular in Uzbekistan, though it may be served if you request it). The host fills your piola (Uzbek teacup) by himself for only one-third. The fewer is tea, the sooner its cools down. This is also the sign of respect in hot Asian climate. Always take your piola from the host with your rights hand, with your left hand on your heart and thank him with the key word "rakhmat" - "thank you".
Foreigners are usually fascinated by the tea ceremony. The host first pours the tea into the piola and then, back into the tea port. It is done by 3 times. The reason is to stir the tealeaves, making the tea stronger. Then the host fills each piola, serving every guest with the greatest respect one at the time.
Be prepared to be offered mountains of food, midnight will come and go unnoticed around an Uzbek table. Uzbek people will always accompany you (where possible) to your home or try and persuade you to spend the night. This is part of Uzbek hospitality. If you need to leave early, you need to ask the host giving him a plausible excuse so as not to offend him. Don't be in too much hurry to leave the table. Before leaving the table, the host, is usually the oldest men at the table, will say a prayer for the success of future co-operation, peace and friendship. Sometimes a prayer is also said at the beginning of the meal. If you are the oldest guest at the table, you could offer, or you might be requested to offer up a prayer yourself.