Tajik cuisine is the traditional cuisine of Tajikistan, and has much in common with Russian, Iranian, Afghan, and Uzbek cuisines. Plov (pilaf) (Tajik: палав, palav, Uzbek: palov), also called osh (Tajik: ош), is the national dish in Tajikistan, as in other countries in the region. Green tea is the national drink. Traditional Tajik meals start with a spread of dried fruit, nuts, halva, and other sweets arrayed on the table in small dishes, and then progress to soup and meat, before finishing with plov.
Common foods and dishes
Palav or osh, generically known as plov (pilaf), is a rice dish made with shredded yellow turnip or carrot, and pieces of meat, all fried together in vegetable oil or mutton fat in a special qazan (a wok-shaped cauldron) over an open flame. The meat is cubed, the carrots are chopped finely into long strips, and the rice is colored yellow or orange by the frying carrots and the oil. The dish is eaten communally from a single large plate placed at the center of the table, often in with one's hands in the traditional way.
Another traditional dish that is still eaten with hands from a communal plate is qurutob (Tajik: қурутоб), whose name describes the preparation method: qurut (Tajik: қурут, dried balls of salty cheese) is dissolved in water (Tajik: об, ob) and the liquid is poured over strips of а thin flaky flatbread (patyr or fatir, Tajik: фатир, or more accurately фатир равғанӣ, fatir ravghani, i.e., fatir made with butter or tallow for flakiness). Before serving the dish is topped with onions fried in oil until golden and other fried vegetables. No meat is added. Qurotob is considered the national dish.
Meals are usually served with non (Tajik: нон), flatbread found throughout Central Asia. If a Tajik has food but not non, he will say he is out of food. If non is dropped on the ground, people will put it up on a high ledge for beggars or birds. Legend holds that one is not supposed to put non upside down because this will bring bad luck. The same holds true if anything is put on top of the non, unless it is another piece of non.
Traditional Tajik soups include mainly meat and vegetable soups (such as shurbo and piti), and meat soups with noodles (such as laghmon and ugro). Other dishes shared regionally, either as fast food or as an appetizer, include manti (steamed meat dumplings), tushbera (pelmeni), somsa (a triangular pastry with a meat and onion stuffing, baked in a tandoor oven), and belyash (pl. belyashi, Tajik: беляши, deep-fried cakes made of yeast dough and filled with minced meat, similar to pirozhki).
Dairy dishes, usually served as part of the spread of appetizers in a Tajik meal and scooped with pieces of flatbread, include chaka (a sour milk preparation), thick yogurt, and kaymak (high-fat clotted cream). Qurut balls may be served as a snack or an accompaniment to cold beverages. Although not a traditional Tajik drink, kefir, a drinking yogurt, is often served with breakfast.
In the summer, Tajikistan abounds in produce and fruit; its grapes and melons were famous throughout the former Soviet Union. The bazaar also sell pomegranates, apricots, plums, peaches, apples, pears, figs, and persimmons.
Tea generally accompanies every meal and is frequently offered between meals as a gesture of hospitality to guests and visitors. It is served hot in a china pot with a lid, and is drunk without sugar from small saucer-less cups without handles (piala). Because of the universal popularity of tea-drinking, the choykhona or teahouse, is the most common gathering place in Tajikistan, and is similar to the Western-style coffee house.
- (Russian) Tajik Cooking, Irfon Publ. House, Dushanbe, 1991
- (Russian) Vahob Khojiev, Traditional and Modern Tajik Cooking, Irfon Publ. House, Dushanbe, 1990
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