Monday, January 11, 2010

Uzbek Food in Russia

Central Asian food is remarkably easy to find and quite popular in Russia. Many fast-food stands sell Central Asian foods like somsa (meat-filled pastries) and are usually run by Central Asian immigrants. There are also sit-down restaurants serving Central Asian food, some of them run by Central Asians themselves but most run by ethnic Russians.
The most common Central Asian cuisine in Russia is Uzbek, and most Russians are familiar with Uzbek foods like somsa, manti (dumplings filled with beef or mutton), and palov (rice pilaf with carrots, onions, beef or mutton, and sometimes chickpeas, raisins, and garlic cloves).
I recently had the opportunity to eat at several sit-down restaurants featuring Uzbek cuisine. The first took me by surprise. In the picture above, you can see this restaurant's two menus: one featuring Japanese food, the other with Uzbek food. The waitresses did not seem to consider this a strange combination and simply laughed when I asked why both were served. The atmosphere of this restaurant was definitively Japanese, but the menu featured a number of Uzbek dishes I have been unable to find elsewhere. Although they did not offer pumpkin manti, they did serve xonum and tuxum barak. Xonum (below left) is a roulette of steamed dough similar to manti. My host mom in Uzbekistan used to make xonum with pumpkin for me, but here my husband enjoyed some with beef and onions inside. Tuxum barak (below right) is a traditional dish in the western Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. Ravioli are filled with raw eggs and then boiled and eaten with sour cream, kefir, or qatiq.
Other Uzbek restaurants are focused exclusively on Central Asian food (usually with some Caucasian and Russian dishes mixed in). These restaurants tend to be relatively fancy and to aim to provide an "exotic" experience. Most offer hookahs for smoking flavored tobacco, and some feature bellydancers. Nearly all are designed with elaborate interior decorations such as draping curtains, plush pillows and benchs to sit on rather than firm chairs, and traditional Uzbek-style blue or green dishes. Some even offer guests the opportunity to sit on korpucha (futon-like cushions) on the floor and eat at traditional Central Asian low tables.


  1. Hi Katherine, your blog couldn't have come along at a better time as recently I've taken a keen interest in russian cuisine and also what it's really like on the dining scene in that country. Your post here has already been a wealth of knowledge - never heard of tuxum barak or xonum! Please, just for someone like me who loves to know how a foreign word is pronounced, could you share the phonetic spelling? Love your blog and look forward to more posts!

  2. Nice blog .. I never thought that you going to write about it:) thanks a lot

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  3. Mmmm, it would be nice to dine in an Uzbek buffet table. I'd have a taste of some manti dumplings so that I can compare it to the more famous Chinese dumplings.

    Hamish Liddell