We didn’t know anything about Uzbek food before we arrived. Clearly we have stepped up to become dedicated experts of Uzbek BREAD during our stay… And we have sampled our fair share of plov, kebabs, and Uzbek vodka… What about the rest?
If you are travelling to Central Asia you are in luck – the food is different, diverse and a cool learning curve! Here are some of our favourites, and what we reckon would be a fair rating…
- Plov ✔️✔️✔️
- Non (bread) ✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
- Shakarap ✔️✔️
- Uzbek Vodka ✔️✔️✔️
- Kabob ✔️✔️✔️
- Barak (fried dumplings) ✔️✔️✔️
- Chalob ❌✔️
- Qurut (yoghurt balls) ❌
- Show Tut juice ✔️✔️✔️
- Halva ✔️✔️✔️
On our first day in Tashkent we were introduced to ‘Plov’. Aside from bread, this is the staple Uzbek food dish. It is similar to Indian pilaf, but the term ‘plov’ covers all of Central Asia, with each region having their own variation.
Uzbek plov is cooked with rice, fresh mutton or beef, carrot, chickpeas, raisins, onions and vegetable oil. And it’s delicious!
The size of the plov cauldrons is unbelievable. There are five on the go at once so they can serve 500 people at a time!
2. UZBEK BREAD
We had heard about the famed bread of Uzbekistan before we came, and confess it was high on our list ‘to do’ on day one… By tradition, when someone leaves the house on a long journey he should take a bite of bread and the remaining loaf will be hung and kept until his return.
We loved how each table is laid for a mealtime! There are so many dishes, and each dish is shared. This was just a roadside restaurant, but the table is immediately given bread to share, and Shakarap – a salad prepared with tomato, onion – and (in the Pepsi bottle) a vinegar dressing. Coffee is always black, and usually pre-mixed with sugar. There are no knives on the table. And each setting has a water glass and a small glass… for vodka!
This had to be added to the blog about Uzbek food as it features a lot on mealtime tables in Uzbekistan. Imagine ordering a whole bottle of vodka for the dinner table at a New Zealand restaurant… It is standard here, and a bottle of vodka costs about $4.50 NZD ($2.90 USD).
Amazing! Kabob became a staple part of our hunt for eateries while travelling Uzbekistan. I especially recommend the restaurant Lyabi Hauz in Bukhara, right by the lake, for the best kabob we found.
A delicious desert, and it looks so beautiful on display at the markets. Halva is made from sugar syrup, egg whites, and sesame seeds
7. SHOH TUT JUICE
A berry juice, made from freshly squeezed berries – similar to blackberries, but the tree is huge. We loved this! It even felt healthy! People drink it for healthy blood.
The kids loved this! Katyk is a sour-milk yogurt, similar to Greek yoghurt. It is served with lunch in a big jug, made up to a drinkable consistency. (And it’s slightly sour, so we were surprised the kids enjoyed it – but they did!).
A shared milk drink with onion and herbs. One bowl for the table and is passed around to accompany lunch (that in itself makes it an ‘interesting’ dish!).
Yum! We all loved these! Barak is a fried Uzbek dumpling.
10. KHIVA MILK BREAD
Another style of flatbread, made with milk as well as water to give it a slightly smoother, creamy taste. Perfectly matched to the beautiful surroundings!
❌ I can’t even fake it; these are one thing we really didn’t like. Qurut are sold like treats at the market, and you can buy a small bag to eat as a snack. They are literally fermented, sour yoghurt balls. 😬 A no from us!
12. DRIED FRUIT
The markets in Central Asia are amazing for their selection of dried fruits and nuts. Head upstairs at Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent for an entire floor dedicated to dried fruits and nuts.
MEALTIMES IN UZBEKISTAN
Mealtimes are a special part of experiencing Uzbek food. We treasured the times we shared a meal with a family, or were welcomed into the homes of locals wherever we found ourselves.
Breakfasts are huge, and comprise of fresh fruit (especially melons and grapes), fresh bread, salami/sausage meat, cheese, and yoghurts. [Except for the time our driver surprised the boys and carried chocolate cereal all the way out to the Aral Sea for them!].
Sharing a meal with our Uzbek family, out in the hills of Urgut at a roadside restaurant.
READ MORE ABOUT UZBEKISTAN
- Three days in Nukus, Karakalpakstan: What is there to do there?
- Exploring Khiva, our favourite Silk Road city.
- Visiting human disaster at the disappearing Aral Sea in Muynak.
- Uzbekistan travel guide: Our route along the Silk Road cities.
- Taking an overnight train from Tashkent to Nukus.