A Proper Uzbek Lunch

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by Joshua Foust on 10/20/2011 · 5 comments

OSH, Kyrgyzstan — I met some Uzbek guys near the main city market here. When they saw my camera, they asked if either my fixer or I spoke Russian. Luckily, my fixer speaks Russian and Uzbek, so we struck up a conversation.

In short order, we were in their car heading up to one of the mahallahs on the outskirts of town. We wound up at a new chaikhana set up after the June Events last year, because many Uzbeks in this part of town could not travel to the main markets and restaurants without getting harassed by the police (police harassment—ethnic Kyrgyz policemen harassing ethnic Uzbek men and women—is a constant theme of my discussions with the Uzbeks here).

So we sat by a gurgling stream, and the staff there went about making a proper Uzbek plov: fried in sheep lard, strewn with pomegranates, served with a small salad of tomatoes and onions, surrounded by apples, persimmons, and grapes, and bread.

It was arguably the most delicious, if greasy, meal I’ve had since coming here. And it’s a perfect way to cap off an otherwise depressing week of hearing about doom and gloom and rape and murder.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Ben October 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

That looks epic. I’ve heard Uzbeks make the best but greasiest plov. The Uyghur versians I had were served with small side dishes of spicy pickled cabbage and yoghurt.

Joshua Foust October 20, 2011 at 10:36 am

“Best but greasiest” about sums it up. It was delicious, but also sent me into a coma afterward. Which was apparently hilarious? “Poor American gut” was uttered by more than one of them.

My takeaway? The secret to make everything delicious is to deep fry it in sheep lard.

Ben October 20, 2011 at 11:50 am

I don’t think you get much lamb in the US, let alone mutton? I can’t imagine keeping a tub of sheep’s lard in the fridge smells too good.

Nathan Hamm October 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s not readily available in the supermarket, but one can buy an entire bison cut into steaks, roasts, and ground and have it delivered to one’s door packed in dry ice. There must be a way to procure sheep lard.

Capt. Monkey October 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

Send me some delicious Uzbek bread. Preferably from Samarkand–I seem to recall that it had the best bread, very dense like a bagel but still easy to chew on. Mmmmmmm.

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