Pearl of East: Your travel guide in Uzbekistan.


Uzbek cuisine

The most distinctive and advanced aspect of Uzbek culture is its cuisine.

Unlike their nomadic neighbors, the Uzbek people have had a solid and settled civilization for many centuries. Needless to say, the national cuisine of any nation is based on its economy and its arable land. Uzbekistan possesses an ideal climate for cattle breeding, poultry farms and agriculture, which are well developed. There are abundant crops yearly of wheat, rice, corn, barley and beans/pulses, thanks to a warm climate. The climate also assists in the growing of large variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Examples from uzbek meals

The plentiful fruits and vegetables grown throughout the country define the peak of Uzbek national cuisine and its flavor and fragrances. Food preparation and preserving techniques, handed down for generations, also allow for more creative dishes year round.

Peculiarities of Uzbek cuisine:

Cookery can be considered an applied art. For centuries, Uzbek cuisine has acquired specific features, tastes and genres. The acquaintance with this aspect of national creativity presents great historical and cultural interest. Throughout the ages, the Uzbek people have gained rich experience food preparation by creating hundreds of delicious dishes and delicacies with recipes preserved until today.

The Uzbek dishes are not spicy (hot) although they are tasty. The usage of various spices and greens (black caraway, black and red pepper, barberries, sesame) is significant for preparing delicious dishes. The most popular greens that are used are parsley, dill, celery and basilic. Other spices include vinegar added in salads and for pickling cucumbers, tomatoes and garlic. The following fruits are also used in some food preparation: quince, pomegranate, fresh and dried plum, alycha (damson) and sultana (raisins).

Uzbek cuisine numbers over one hundred kinds of pilaf, 30 kinds of shahshlik, 70-80 different soups, various types of bread, samsa, floured food, confectionary, etc. National Uzbek cuisine offers a wide choice of dishes and usually washed down with a few cups of the national Uzbek drink, green or black tea.

Seasonal food:

Uzbek cuisine does have seasonal dishes including salad with radish and sour-cream, sumalak, dumplings with greens, samsa with greens, meet rolls with grapes leaves, roast beef and cauliflower, and lentil soup with mint which are made mostly in the spring. Shashlik with tomatoes, meat rolled in cabbage leaves, stuffed peppers, lagman, cold soup of sour milk, stewed meat and vegetables, ayran, tea and compotes are made mostly in summer. Fried meat, fish shashlik, roastbeef of lamb, quail soup, plov with quince, manti with potatoes or pumpkin are made mostly in autumn. Various plovs (kazi-karta, postdumba), lamb shashlik salad with green radish, soups, lentil porridge, different dried fruits, jams, compotes, various pickled vegetables are made in the winter.

Some special dishes are cooked only for wedding parties or other holidays such as kazi-karta, postdumba uramasi (roll of fat tail), tandir kabob (baked kabob), norin (horsemeat with noodles), khasip (domestic sausage).

Uzbek bread

It is impossible to imagine the life of Uzbek people without its unique tasty nan (hot bread). It is usually referred to as lepyoshka in the Russian language. Anyone who has ever tried it even once has fell in love with it.

According to legend, the Bukhara emir once tasted the amazingly delicious Samarkand bread. He ordered to bring the best baker in Samarkand to his palace in Bukhara and bake the same bread for him. The baker obeyed and fulfilled the emir's desire. However, the taste of the bread appeared to be different from the bread he had eaten from Samarkand. Furious the emir demanded an explanation from the baker who justified his positions by saying "There is no Samarkand air here".

Examples from uzbek meals

The majority of Uzbek breads are baked in special ovens called tandirs. Tandir baking is a guarantee for wonderful qualities of bread. The process of baking in a tandir takes 4-8 minutes. The wide-spread type of Uzbek bread, obi-nan, is baked from common dough with a special leaven. It is leaven that gives the bread its excellent taste. The diversity of Uzbek breads is astonishing. Besides the most common obi-nan and 'patyr' (thin bread) made of short pastry with sheep's fat, there exist unique kinds of breads that are baked more seldom and may seem exotic even for the local population. Each region can boast of its own bread being unique. Each bread has its own leaven, its original technique of baking and marvelous taste.

The bread gala-osiyogi-nan that is baked in the village of Gala-Osiyo near Samarkand is famous all over the world. Every visitor, by all means tries to buy this bread before leaving the city. This bread is unique for its taste and nourishing qualities. The Ferghana valley is famed for its tasty layer-breads - katlama. Each layer is covered with oil and sour cream. Breads can also be made of corn flour (zogora nan), and herbs (kuk patyr).

Traditionally people do not cut bread with knives; they break it with their hands. Table etiquette prohibits to put broken pieces of bread "face" down. This disrespects the bread in Uzbek culture, since bread symbolizes life.

One custom that involves bread occurs when a relative is leaving home. The relative will take half of a piece of break with him or her, and the other half stays at the home until their return. During an engagement, bread breaking is performed for making the future marriage of the bride and groom strong and stable. In Uzbekistan bread is God's bliss, from ancient times people have worshipped and respected it.

Famous Uzbek dishes Plov (pilaf)

Plov is the most popular dish of the Uzbek cuisine. It mainly consists of fried meat, onions, carrots, rice with adding of sultana, barberries, peas or fruits. The Uzbek males are proud of their ability to cook excellent and delicious plov. A true Uzbek plov is cooked on the open fire in special cauldron. Traditionally it is cooked in the crockery for nomads - in a metallic pot. There are many old recipes and types of plov.

Usually plov is served in the large flat dish called a lagon. Over the centuries, Uzbeks have eaten plov with their hands from one common dish. Although this is common in the villages and at special ceremonies, eating plov with spoons has become more customary.

Examples from uzbek meals

Bread and salad of fresh tomatoes and onions are always served with plov.

Uzbek people for centuries have used classical technology for preparing plov. There are plenty of variations of the dish. Gourmands prefer Samarkand, Bukhara and Khoresm variants of plov especially. Special plov is cooked for wedding ceremonies. Each region in Uzbekistan has its own secret way of cooking this dish. These secrets create a cornucopia of taste and flavor.


Lagman is a popular dish in Central Asia. It consists of two main parts: noodles and broth. Each part is cooked separately, and then both parts are mixed before serving. The first part is noodles, which provides the dish with gentle consistency; the second one is broth (vafja), which gives lagman its extraordinary taste and aroma. Vadja is the seasoning for the noodles. It is prepared from meat, potatoes, radish, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, onions, sweet peppers, cabbage and garlic. The ingredients are fried and then stewed in a meat broth. Not all the above mentioned ingredients are necessary as it depends on which type of lagman you are preparing.

Examples from uzbek meals

Afterwards the noodles and vadja are mixed together. Ready noodles are placed on the bottom of deep bowl and then layers of vadja and greens, garlic and pepper are poured on top of the noodles according to one's taste.


Sumalak is a festive dish of Uzbek cuisine made of grown wheat seeds. It is cooked during the Navruz celebration (celebration of spring: March 21st) Uzbek ancestors made sumalak before the forthcoming spring planting and gardening work as a ritual food. The seeds of wheat are grinded and then boiled in a cauldron in cotton oil with some flour added during a 10-12 hour period. Big stones are placed at the bottom of the cauldron so that the dish does not get burned. Singing and discussion accompany the process of sumalak making. The dish is served after cooling. People believe that this dish gives physical and spiritual power.

Examples from uzbek meals

Legends about the origin of this dish:

There are several legends about the origin of sumalak.

Once nomads from the east tired to besiege the town-fortress on the bank of Jeykhun. When the dwellers had run out of food during the invasion, the elders ordered to bring the last sacks of damp wheat to prepare. When the town's defenders tried the unattractive food, they felt such burst of energy and that they resisted the invaders furiously. The invaders could not match the strength of the town dwellers and retreated. Peace came to the land again.

A farmer preparing to sow wheat moistened the seeds. They grew, but at this moment, the weather turned for the worse. The farmer asked his wife to make porridge from those seeds. After boiling for a long time, the food was ready. The husband was very pleased with the dish. Since that time, sumalak has been cooked every year throughout Central Asia.


Manty is a type of dumpling. Its preparation includes three steps: kneading of dough, preparation of the filling and cooking of the manty. The main difference of manty from other types of dumplings is the larger size and minced meat filling. Manty is cooked not in water but in a special steam pot (manty kaskane). Steam preserves the beautiful shape of the manty.

In each square of the rolled dough you should put 1 tablespoon full of minced meat and a slice of fat. Then the dough square is pinched closed from the top. Manty is covered with tissue for the dough not to get dry.

Examples from uzbek meals

Then the manty is basted with oil and put into the layers of the special steam pot. The delicious food takes 30-35 minutes to cook. Ready manty are placed into a large dish. They may be seasoned with sour cream or meat broth, black pepper or greens.

Kebab a -la-Uzbek:

Kebab is an indigenous Turkish food. However, it has gradually become a staple dish of Central Asia. The taste qualities are really excellent. Every type of kebab a-la-Uzbek consists of mutton: minced (lyulya), mutton chop and or several pieces of mutton kebab. The cooks also divide the mutton brisket, tenderize it, add spices and roast the brisket on both sides until fully ready.

The mutton is divided in two halves. Lyulya is made of one-half and kebab chunks from the other half.

Examples from uzbek meals

To cook lyulya you should mince the mutton and onions together in a mincing mashine. This mix is then specially spiced. Four long cylinders in the shape of a cucumber are made and then formed onto a metallic stick and roasted over hot coals. This is an incredibly delicious dish, and one of the favorites of tourists.

Samsa (samosa)

Samsa is baked with two layers of dough and is a food which amazes by its excellent taste and aroma. Samsa is made in special stove called a tandir. Different fillings may be used to make samsa including meat, potato, pumpkin and greens.

The flat dough is rolled and flattened. Then the filling is placed in the middle of the dough square with a small slice of fat. The dough is then closed and pinched on top and formed into a triangle shape.

Examples from uzbek meals

The pinched side of the samsa is put on tandir's wall. Then tandir is firmly covered and in 20 minutes, the top is opened and at the bottom of the tandir the fire is extinguished, and the samsa is left in the tandir for another 10-15 minutes. Samsa is then served hot and is really a pleasure to eat!

Pieva (onion soup)

Onion soup is a typical soup for all Central Asian cookery. However, the recipes for making this soup may vary. Uzbeks cook pieva with meat; the onion quantity is usually three times larger than the quantity of meat. Bitter onion is preferable for this kind of soup. Then water is added (two times more than the onion quantity).

You should add small pieces of fat, chopped onions, cut meat and tomatoes and fry everything for 20 minutes. Then cold water should be added and let to boil for 30 minutes on a small flame. When the food is practically ready, the spices should be added. Pieva is eaten with insipid dry flat cakes which are thrown into the soup (similar to croutons).



Shurpa is an eastern dish that can be made in two different ways: kainatma (shurpa made from fresh meat) and kovurma (shurpa made of roasted meat). The Turks, Arabians, Balkans and Caucasus peoples consider this dish to be theirs. Uzbek shurpa is a meat soup with vegetables and mutton fat. Poultry may be used as the main meat in this dish. Many types of onions and different vegetables are added to shurpa. You can put almost anything in shurpa without spoiling it.

Examples from uzbek meals

It increases one's appetite while eating, due to the spices added and way of cooking. Shurpa is cooked on a small flame like other Central Asian soups. The meat is cooked during 1-2 hours then the vegetables are added and cooked for another 30-45 minutes. When ready, shurpa must have a thick broth (brownish-red in color) and smell of pepper and spices.


Chuchvara -Uzbek dumplings

Unlike Russian dumplings, chuchvara is much smaller in size and pork is not used as the filling. The ideal filling for chuchvara is not minced meat but meat sliced into small pieces. A special spice (zira) may be added in the meat. One should cut rolled dough into very small pieces then add a small roll of meat filling to the center while closing and pinching the dough into a small envelope shaped dumpling.

Chuchvara is always served with clear soup and considered a first course meal.

Examples from uzbek meals

True Uzbek chuchvara is fried in vegetable oil which distinguishes it from Russian dumplings. Vinegar, greens, sour cream, tomato sauce, paprika and hot pepper can also be added to chuchvara.

More information about Khorezm cuisine

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