Friday, December 18, 2009


Many people know the Russian word "ikra" as "caviar," but in fact, it is also means vegetable puree/pate. I have not been able to figure out the reason for the use of the same word to mean both things, but I'm guessing it has something to do with "ikra" being a spread of some type (?).

I like several versions of vegetable ikra very much. One is made with eggplant and the other with squash. The pictures in this post are of the squash version. The ingredients are squash, onions, carrots, tomatoes, vegetable oil, and a little cayenne pepper.

Many people make homemade ikra, and I used to love my host mom's baklazhannaya ikra (eggplant ikra) in Uzbekistan. The process of making ikra basically involves stewing a mixture of vegetables. Most people make a large batch and then can the extras for use during the wintertime, when fresh vegetables are more expensive.

Store-bought versions of ikra are also quite good, however, and usually do not contain many extra preservatives or artificial ingredients. The "Veres" version in these pictures is relatively inexpensive but good. As you can see below, it is basically a puree of vegetables with a rich flavor.

Ikra is good on bread or crackers, and I enjoy it on top of rice or pasta. I have heard that many people also use it as a sauce or type of marinade for meats. Although the picture below may not look too thrilling, the vegetable ikra itself is delicious!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Qovoqli Manti

When I lived in Uzbekistan, my host mom used to make me delicious homemade qovoqli honum (is this the correct spelling??), which is a steamed, rolled dumpling filled with pumpkin. I recently had the chance to eat at an Uzbek restaurant in Tatarstan and was excited to see that they served qovoqli manti, pumpkin-filled dumplings that are similar to honum.

These qovoqli manti were delicious and tasted very authentic, minus the chunks of beef fat I sometimes found in pumpkin manti in Uzbekistan. I am used to eating manti and honum with qatiq (a type of plain yogurt) on top. Here they were served with an herb yogurt, which was also delicious.
In addition to manti, we had Uzbek flatbread and black tea that the server poured into a teacup and back into the pot three times, as is a tradition in Uzbekistan. The food was served on traditional blue-and-while Uzbek china, and in the background there was Uzbek music playing. All of this made me miss Uzbekistan and my friends there!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tatar Pies

While in Kazan for a week and a half, I've been exploring Tatar food again. Tatar food includes elements of Russian and Central Asian cuisine, as well as unique regional dishes.

One of my favorite aspects of Tatar food are the many pastries. I've already written about gubadiya, which is a pie filled with rice, kort (a curd cheese), and raisins. I've also written about kystybyy, which are like tortillas filled with potatoes. In addition, there are pastries filled with chicken and rice and other assorted elements.

For an American, however, one of the most exciting elements of Tatar cuisine is that there are pastries that look like American pies! The slice above is from a pie made with dried lemons, apricots, and prunes. The tartness of the lemons mixes with the sweetness of the apricots and prunes for a sharp but sweet dessert. Delicious! There are also pies made with sour cream (and sometimes cranberries) that look and even taste somewhat like cheesecake.