How is the food in Tajikistan? Turns out it’s pretty good.
Tajikistan is not known as a famous destination for food. Tajik food is simple and filling, and heavily reliant on meat. One problem with a country like Tajikistan is that when people go out to restaurants, they want good, tasty meat and lots of it, so it’s also not the most vegetarian friendly destination.
Tajik food is similar to its neighbours’, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Iran, as well as having much in common with the Soviet cuisine that all of the former Soviet republics share (think Pelmeni, Pirozhki, Borsch and other delicacies from the different republics such as Katchapuri from Georgia).
Anyone who has travelled to Central Asia knows Plov and usually has strong feelings about it. Most love Plov, while some find it boring and overly oily.
Like Uzbekistan, Plov is the national dish of Tajikistan, which it is known as Osh (ош).
For those of you who haven’t experienced Plov before, it is a rice dish made with turnip or carrot, garlic and meat, usually mutton. All the ingredients are cooked together in lots of oil in a large cauldron.
Plov is a very heavy dish and is eaten in large portions. For celebrations and special occasions, a single gigantic serve is placed in the middle of the group and is shared. Despite being relatively western in most ways, many still prefer to eat Plov the traditional way with their hands.
A uniquely Tajik dish, Qurutob, also written Kurutob, is dissolved balls of salty cheese in water. The water is then poured over Tajik flat bread. The bread is then fried in oil with onions. Qurutob is vegetarian, although extremely heavy for your usual vegetarian and no doubt meat products may also have been fried in the same oil.
Dumplings consisting of beef or lamb mixed with onion and spices.
Meat skewers, usually chicken, beef or lamb. Some traditional spices will be served beside the kebabs and one usually breaks off a piece of bread, dips a piece of meat in the spices and then shoves it all in your mouth. The locals make it look graceful, but you’ll just make a bit of a mess.
Sambusa is a triangular pastry with either a meat and onion stuffing or a pumpkin and onion stuffing, baked in a tandoor oven.
Traditional Tajik soups include mainly meat and vegetable soups and are similar to versions found in the other Central Asian republics.
Bread is sacred in Tajikistan and is served with all meals. Like most of the former Soviet countries, bread represents the hard work people put in to provide food, and during hard times was one of the few things they always had to eat. Tajik bread is usually round and flat like their neighbours’.
Particular traditions surround bread, including not placing it upside down and never throwing bread away. If you need to get rid of bread locals will place is up high, above head height, and in a place where animals will find and eat it.
Tajikistan is famous for their grapes and melons, and you’ll see these in every shop and roadside being sold. Other fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, apricots and plums just to name a few are grown locally in Tajikistan.
Tea is the national drink of Tajikistan and you will be offered tea with every meal and at every possible opportunity. Even during the heat of summer Tajiks will still drink a cup of tea. Tea is drunk from small bowls without handles.
In the Tajik language, as with most world languages, the word for tea is Chai.
The Chaikhana, or tea house, has always been and still is the most popular place for people to meet.
Despite being a majority Muslim country, Tajiks still drink a lot, and beer and vodka are the two most popular alcoholic drinks.
Breakfast is a very very simple affair in Tajikistan. Don’t expect anything special – you won’t be able to get smashed avocado.
For breakfast expect some flat bread, simple cottage cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs (usually boiled or fried), some jams, sweet biscuits and of course tea. Tajiks love their tea and drink it with lots of sugar.