Anyone who’s been to Uzbekistan will know that it’s a cultural tapestry that incorporates a variety of different cultures. Once positioned along the famous Silk Road, the Central Asian country has long been connected to its surrounding countries, and that resulted in an influx of ideas that helped to shape its clothes, buildings, art, and, yep, its food.
Uzbekistan food is typically hearty, rich, and full of flavour. Packed with energy to sustain the workers toiling in the fields, traditional Uzbek dishes are designed to elevate bodies and spirits. And these dishes aren’t just popular in Uzbekistan. In recent years, they’ve developed a cult international following, and it’s fair to say that the world is waking up to all there is to love about these inventive, unique dishes.
With that in mind, we thought we’d provide a run-through of ten foods that are popular in Uzbekistan, and which we highly recommend you seek out should you pay a visit to this corner of the world. Not planning to visit Central Asia anytime soon? Try making Uzbek cuisine at home! Many of these dishes are relatively straightforward to make and often include ingredients that are easy to find in all supermarkets, including onions, carrots, ground beef, and dried fruit.
Plov can be considered the national dish of Uzbekistan. A staple of Uzbek cuisine, it’s an integral part of Uzbekistan culture, often served at major events and ceremonies, and even features on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
There are hundreds of varieties of Plov, but the most common variation includes cooking lamb or beef, onions, and carrots in a big pot. From there, you’re free to add eggs or kazy, a type of local sausage you’ll find in every Uzbekistan food market.
Looking for the best Plov in the world? Head to a street food market in Tashkent.
Achichuk, also known as Shakarob, is a simple dish that you’ll find in any restaurant that serves Uzbek food. Typically served as a side to Plov, this good-for-you dish is made using tomatoes, onions, herbs, seasonings, and chilli powder. Unlike other dishes on this menu, all the ingredients you need to make Achichuk at home can be found in your local supermarket, so look up a recipe and give it a try!
Dumplings are popular in most Asian countries, and Uzbekistan is no different. Their variation is called Manti, which are dumplings stuffed with beef, ground lamb, cabbage, potatoes and onions. Though in truth, there are a lot of different ways to make Manti — if it’s a standard Uzbekistan food ingredient, then you can be reasonably confident that it’ll work well in a Manti dish. Most people eat Manti with sour cream, onions, or tomato sauce on the side. Round it off with green tea, and it’ll be just like you’re having a meal in Uzbekistan.
Shashlik is Uzbekistan's version of the shish kabob. This one is certainly not for vegetarians, since it’s a very meat-heavy dish. The standard Shashlik is made with lamb, though most restaurants also offer Shashlik made of chicken or beef.
The meat is placed on a skewer, and in many cases, that’s the entire meal. However, some places alternate meat pieces with vegetables. If you’re visiting Uzbekistan, you can also try Shashlik made with horse meat.
Lagman is up there with Plov as one of Uzbekistan’s most popular dishes and is very filling. There are a bunch of different variations, and it can look and taste very different depending on which region of Uzbekistan you’re visiting.
But the classic is as follows: vegetables and meat served over a pulled noodle bed. You can also find Lagman served without the hand pulled noodles, in which case it’s best described as a soup.
Hanum is similar in taste and appearance to Manti. In fact, it’s often described as the quick (or lazy) way to make Manti. That’s not really true, since it still takes time to make, but even if it was it wouldn’t matter — it’s delicious regardless. It’s a popular street food dish that is made from dough, potatoes, and sometimes vegetables, as is the case in some regions of the country.
The Samsa is similar in taste, appearance, and name to the Samosa, the popular Indian food dish. The difference is that while Samosas are deep-fried, Samas are cooked in the oven. They have a triangle shape and are typically filled with lamb, chicken, or beef mixed with spices and tail fat. The standard Samsa will always have meat, but as with the Samosa, vegetarian options filled with pumpkin or potatoes are also available.
If you’ve ever had a cabbage roll, then you’ll be somewhat familiar with Dolma. The difference is that, instead of cabbage, Dolma is wrapped in young grape leaves. A classic spring dish in Uzbekistan, Dolma’s filling consists of meat, rice, green vegetables, and spices. It’s a delicious and hearty dish that is typically at lunch.
Obi Non is a bread dish similar to the Indian Naan, only it’s slightly thicker and often decorated. It’s a staple Uzbek bread that you’ll find everywhere if you visit the country; it’s one of those dishes that’s paired with every meal. It’s also highly versatile, and if you travel through Uzbekistan, you’ll find a great variety of varieties, such of which include meat, raisins, and nuts.
Halva is a sweet treat. Guests invited to an Uzbekistan home will often be greeted with Halva and sweet tea, and it also forms part of many national and individual celebrations, such as weddings. There are a thousand different ways to make Halva, and though it’s “sweet,” it’s also believed to be good for you — boosted mood, strength, and immune system are just three of the reported benefits.
And there we have it! Whether you’re visiting Uzbekistan or looking to make a new dish at home, we highly recommend giving the above dishes a try. We’re sure your mouth and stomach won’t be disappointed.