Uzbek and Kyrgyz Food

On BTSA tours, we will learn about Uzbek cuisine as well as typical foods of Kyrgyzstan. We’ll eat delicious, fresh food everywhere, and learn about the local dishes every day as we savor our meals. Bread-baking in rounded ‘tandoor’ ovens will be observed in markets and restaurants. Skewers of grilled chicken or ground beef are popular and delicious, as are grilled vegetable skewers, salads, and dishes such as pilaf or plov. Made with either beef or lamb, plov is claimed as the national dish by several countries in the region. It’s served at lunchtime, and dished out from enormous cauldrons. Every cook claims a different and delicious plov recipe.

Blue and white plate full of rice and meat dish called Plov.
Plov, the “national dish” of Uzbekistan. Made from rice, carrots, raisins, chick peas, cumin and meat – in a big cauldron.

Vegetarians will have no trouble eating well in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, especially if you can be a bit flexible. In addition to the grilled vegetables, fresh salads such as grated carrots or beets with walnuts, or tomato and cucumber are popular and found in most restaurants. Lentil soup is ubiquitous and delicious, as is beet and cabbage borscht. Refreshing cold yogurt soup with fresh dill and parsley is a common starter in hot summer months.

Stacks of round golden breads, decorated with sesame seeds.
Flower-shaped golden breads, decorated with sesame seeds.

Bread is divine, plentiful, and considered sacred by the people. The traditional round and flat bread, called non or lepeshka, is baked in a tandoor (round wood-fired clay oven), after which it comes out toasted and crispy. Bread of each region has its own particular method of leavening, its own baking techniques and its own inimitable taste. For instance, delicious flaky bread – katlama non – typifies the Fergana Valley version. Some savory lepeshkas are prepared with onion or meat baked inside the dough.

Baker gets ready to slap the dough rounds onto the walls of the round oven. Chorsu Bazaar.

Traditionally Uzbek dinner guests never cut bread with a knife. At the start of the meal, the youngest person breaks the bread into pieces by hand and places it back in the basket or on the table near each place setting. And they take care not to be disrespectful by setting the loaf upside down on the table. 
Desserts are much loved by the Uzbeks, resulting in a large variety. Many are similar to Turkish specialties like baklava with pistachios or walnuts.

Fresh tomato salad and cold yogurt-cucumber soup refresh on a warm day.
Sumptuous lunch of both pumpkin and meat-filled manti, steamed dumplings served with sour cream. Samarkand.
Giant Samosas with flaky, crispy crust, with roast chicken and salads for lunch near Tashkent.
Lagman: A traditional Uighur dish of hand-pulled noodles, vegetables and beef in a soup base – delicious!

Author Profile

About The Author: Cynthia Samake

Cynthia began “Behind the Scenes Adventures” to share the traditional textiles and festivals of far-flung countries. Since 1998 she has led small groups of textile fanatics all over the world. Specializing in indigenous clothing and textiles, and the festival costume of Bolivia. You can read more of her writing in Piecework and Fiber Arts Now. Her new book, Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia was published by Thrums Press in 2019.

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