I recently returned from a 10-day trip in Uzbekistan where I tried to eat as much local food as possible. Uzbek cuisine originates from a blend of Central Asian, Persian, and Russian culinary traditions. The food in Uzbekistan is rich in flavour and extremely delicious. Their dishes are bound to leave a lasting impression on anyone who tries them.
Uzbek food is extremely meat heavy and occasionally contains local delicacies like horsemeat in some dishes. Vegetarians might have a hard time, whereas hardcore carnivores would thrive with the high-quality meat the country has to offer.
Below is a list of 7 foods you must try if you visit Uzbekistan, along with some restaurant recommendations.
I’m going to start this list with the #1 Uzbek dish, Plov.
Plov is traditionally a spiced red meat rice pilaf dish. Lamb, beef, or horsemeat are traditionally used in cooking plov. Variations of the dish also included chickpeas, raisins, eggs, and wrapped vine leaves. Plov is usually served during weddings, special events, and family gatherings and is considered a symbol of hospitality.
Shashliks are grilled meat skewers originating from Central Asia. You can find shashliks literally everywhere in Uzbekistan! They are essentially the Central Asian version of kebabs. The meat is put on skewers and cooked over an open flame or charcoal fire. Shashliks are usually served with some veggies on the side, like onions and bell peppers. You can eat it on its own or with some bread or rice. Personally, I always paired it up with the local Uzbek bread 🤌
They’re so popular that they even have shashlik flavoured lays available in their supermarket (which are pretty good tbh).
Manti is an Uzbek dumpling stuffed usually with lamb, beef, or veggies. It is traditionally served with sour cream. As someone who loves dumplings and momos, manti was the perfect starter before jumping into a main course.
For amazing Manti, I recommend going to Platan in Samarkand.
Another popular Uzbek dish is lagman, a soup made with handmade noodles, vegetables, and meat. Like fettuccini, the noodles are typically long and thick and are made by hand, adding a unique flavour and texture to the dish. Lagman is usually served hot and is a popular dish during the winter months.
Mastava is a soupy rice dish with minced beef, often accompanied by yogurt or sour cream. It also includes vegetables such as carrots, onions, and potatoes. The rice in this dish is served when it’s in a fluffy state creating a texture. Mastava is usually served with traditional Uzbek bread on the side. Mastava is known for its warm and comforting flavours and is a great option for those looking for a hearty and filling meal.
If you would like to try some good mastava, I recommend visiting Platan in Samarkand.
Samsa is a savoury pastry filled with meat or vegetables. Uzbek samsas aren't very different from the globally popular Indian samosas. The pastry is typically made with flaky dough and baked in a tandoor oven. The filling can vary, but it is usually made with ground lamb, onions, and various spices. Samsa is a popular snack or breakfast food in Uzbekistan and is often served with tea.
You can find samsa almost everywhere from street shops and cafes to upscale restaurants.
Shurpa is a traditional Central Asian soup. The soup is typically made with lamb, beef, or mutton, and is cooked with various vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. Shurpa also includes herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander, parsley, and dill, which add flavour and aroma to the soup.
And That's A Wrap!
From the hearty plov to the savory samsa to the soupy mastava, Uzbekistan offers a range of flavors and textures that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. Whether you're a meat lover or a vegetarian, there's something for everyone in Uzbekistan's diverse cuisine. So, if you're planning a trip to this beautiful country, make sure to add these 7 must-try foods to your list and enjoy the culinary adventure that awaits you.