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Tajikistan

National cuisine of Tajikistan for gourmets. Authentic recipes, delicacies and specialties

Tajikistan is a mountain country in Central Asia. It borders with Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, China, and Afghanistan. Tajik is the national language but many people speak Russian. Tajiks enjoy eating well, and local cuisine has many interesting dishes that tourists may want to try. Meat dishes are very popular here. Pilaf or pilau is particularly popular. By the way, Tajiks make not only pilaf with rice but also a variation with thin noodles, ugro. These noodles are made right before cooking them. Ugro-pilaf is a national Tajik dish that is a must for all tourists wishing to try local cuisine.
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Meat dishes make up the basis of Tajik cuisine. Mutton, goat meat, and horsemeat are the most popular in the country. Beef is less widespread, and pork is not eaten at all (just like in all other Muslim countries). Greens, vegetables, and flatbreads are also essential and are always present on the table. Dastarkhwan, a table or a place where people eat food, cannot be half-empty. Taking into consideration that meat dishes are particularly popular in Tajikistan, tourists shouldn’t refrain from trying them. Moreover, local cooking traditions are different compared to the neighboring countries in the region. That is why local meat dishes have an unforgettable and unique taste.
Kuyrdak or kuurdak is a stew with fatty mutton, potatoes, tomatoes, pepper, onion, and various herbs. Osh-tuglama is rice porridge with boiled mutton. Shahlet cabbage rolls with beef are also very popular. Shahlet are usually filled with minced meat, onion, and boiled rice. The filling is wrapped in thin slices of inner fat and then in cabbage leaves. Domlama is a stew that is cooked in a large cast-iron pot. It consists of rows of minced meat, chickpea, potato, cabbage, tomato, onion, and carrot. Fans of sausages should try kazy (homemade horsemeat sausage) or kabob (minced lamb sausage with onion and spices). The sausages are roasted in oil and then stewed in broth until ready. Copyright www.orangesmile.com
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Now let’s move to local soups. First-course dishes are usually cooked in meat or bone broth. Milk or vegetable soups are significantly less widespread. Meat is finely sliced for the soup, large chunks of meat are not common. Such herbs as dill, parsley, basil, coriander, and dock are typical for Tajik cuisine. Fresh tomatoes are often added to dishes, and such dairy products as qurut, kaymak, and curd can be used as seasonings. All local soups are hearty and thick. Try shavla – mutton soup (other ingredients: rice, onion, pepper, carrot). Naryn is a noodle soup with horse meat or mutton with pepper and onion. Atola contains mutton fat, flour, onion, pepper, and a blend of spices. Soups are served in bowls that can be round-shaped or oval (tavakah). Besides that, there is a special bowl for soup – kasakh. Tableware is mostly made of clay because it keeps food warm longer.
Local baked products are also worth trying. Sambusa baraki is a traditional local pastry. This is a triangular pie filled with mutton meat and small pieces of fat. Sambusa baraki is cooked in the traditional oven called tandoor. Tukhum-barak is thin slices of dough filled with boiled egg and onion. The pastry is traditionally served with sour cream. Katlama is a flaky dough flatbread with butter. Shima is a noodle dish with meat, onion, and tomato sauce. It tastes similar to lagman (noodle with meat). All kinds of dumplings are also widespread in Tajik cuisine. Pilita is thin slices of douth roasted in oil and sprinkled with sugar powder.
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Places to eat in Dushanbe. If you like luxury setting and excellent service, consider visiting large restaurants such as Shakhriyor (Ismoil Somoni Avenue 11) that offers national and Russian cuisines, Didor (Rahmon Nabiyev Street 26) that serves European and Tajik cuisine, and Teahouse Rumi (Shamsi Street 18/1) that mostly specializes in the fine national cuisine. Restaurants open at hotels also usually offer an interesting menu full of national dishes. All beer fans have a must-visit place in the capital. The Dushanbe Sim-Sim brewery has a pub and a beer restaurant adjacent to the main building. You can find it on Khuvajdullaeva Street 2. The restaurant has several halls that broadcast different sports competitions. The selection of national dishes is quite small as there are mostly European cuisine dishes but the restaurant sells fresh beer directly from the brewery.
If you stay at a guesthouse and have a tight budget, don’t worry about food prices. Many street food outlets offer delicious and affordable food in Dushanbe. Small cafes close to big shops and markets aren’t usually expensive. Residents of Dushanbe often eat in cafes that specialize in dumplings and lagman – these dining establishments are affordable and offer delicious food. There are many simple-looking cafes that do not have fancy décor and waiters in uniforms but they offer really delicious food. Oshkhona (osh restaurant) Mehrgon, a modest café to the left of the big Mehrgon Market, is one of such venues.
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There is an opinion that the most delicious pilaf is cooked using cottonseed oil. Maybe this is the reason why Tajik pilaf is so popular with tourists. Not everyone is ready to cook ugro-pilaf because the receipt is quite complex but the traditional rice pilaf is easier to cook. Give it a try using the secret ingredient – the cottonseed oil. If you like pilaf and want to please your friends or relatives by cooking authentic Tajik pilaf, buy cottonseed oil here, in Tajikistan. This ingredient will help you to make small cooking masterpieces or will simply remind you of the vacation. Finally, this is a nice souvenir from Tajikistan.
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