What to eat in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

Although Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are neighbouring countries, they are quite different. Kyrgyzstan is full of natural beauties and its culture is influenced by its nomadic heritage. While Uzbekistan has an incredible architectural wonders, which come from its history of being an important part of the Silk Road. But both countries have similar delicious traditional food.

Before travelling to Kyrgyzstan we read on the internet that the food there is not particularly good, except in Bishkek, which has an incredible international food scene. However, we have had a different experience. We did enjoy the various cuisines of the capital, but we also loved the food in the countryside. This is probably because we stayed at home-stays, where nice local housekeepers cooked us delicious homemade food. We were spoiled with rich breakfasts, lunch and dinner, including fruits and sweets. When researching food in Uzbekistan, the travels blogs said the food there is delicious. And we agree. Although we stayed in hotels there, we got served amazing breakfasts, also lunches and dinners in the restaurants were delicious. Although we preferred homemade versions of dishes in Kyrgyzstan. 🙂

Tamchy home-stay lunch Kyrgyzstan Central Asia Vanja Vodenik

There is one more specialty about the food culture in this two Central Asian countries. The custom is to eat on a low table, so you take off your shoes and sit cross-legged on a bench full of soft pillows. At first it is quite uncomfortable to eat this way, but you soon get used to it.

Khiva restaurant table Uzbekistan Central Asia

Breakfast & snacks

To start the day we were served porridge, an influence from the times when both countries were a part of the Soviet Union, some traditional bread (see more below), eggs, salami, cheese and fresh vegetables, usually tomato and cucumbers. We also got fruit and some sweets. And we were always served a nice hot cup of tea, which they drink with every meal.

breakfast Karakol Kyrgyzstan Central Asia
Bukhara breakfast Uzbekistan Central Asia

Bread

Traditional bread of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is baked in the form of circular flat loaf with decorated crispy center and puffy edges. Once the dough is made, they use a special wooden stamp with sharp teeth named chakich to make patterns of holes in the center. Then they put the bread into hot tandoori – special clay oven – and stick it on the wall of the oven to bake. Bread is part of every meal and each province in both countries make their own versions.

traditional bread Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Central Asia
bread making tandoori oven Khiva Uzbekistan Central Asia

(Dried) fruits and nuts

There are many types of fresh fruit available in both countries, we mostly got it for breakfast. There were a lot of melons, watermelons, apples and grapes. In the bazaars you can also buy any kind of dry fruits and many varieties of nuts. We loved peanuts covered in sugar, something we did not eat anywhere else in the world before.

peanuts Khiva Uzbekistan Central Asia
dry fruits bazaar Bishkek Kyrgyzstan Central Asia

Samsa

Samsa is a delicious savory pastry. It is a bun stuffed with meat and/or vegetables and baked. It is a popular snack, so you can get them in street shops as well as in restaurants.

samsa Samarkand Uzbekistan Central Asia

Lunch & dinner


Lagman

Lagman is a Central Asian dish made of noodles, mixed with meat and vegetables. It is cooked as soup and then served over pasta. It can be served with more or less soup, so it can be like pasta with sauce or like soup with pasta.

lagman Karakol Kyrgyzstan Central Asia

Manti/manty

Manti is a Central Asian version of dumplings. It is a thin dough filled with meat or potatoes or vegetables (for example pumpkin) then cooked under steam. It can be served with a spicy sauce.

manti Bishkek Kyrgyzstan Central Asia

Mother-In-Law’s Tongue

Usually served as a started, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue consists of layers of deep fried eggplant with tomato and a garlic mayonnaise.

mother-in-law's tongue Tamchy Kyrgyzstan Central Asia

Plov

This popular rice meal is the most classic dish of Uzbekistan, where it represents hospitality, community and identity, but can be find in many countries in the region. It is made of rice, onion, carrots and meat, all cooked slowly in layers in a traditional cast-iron kazan. The ingredients can vary from region to region, for example in Bukhara they add a quail egg on the top, but all the regions claim to have the best version of plov.

plov Tashkent Uzbekistan Central Asia

A great place to try plov is the Central Asian Plov Center in Tashkent. It is a big dining hall where they serve only plov, salad and drinks. In front of the hall you can see several giant kazans where plov is being made. Then you can decide how much and which version of plov will you eat.

Central Asian Plov Center Tashkent Uzbekistan
Central Asian Plov Center Tashkent Uzbekistan

Shish Kebab

This delicious barbecue meat is firstly well marinated, then put on the skewers and cooked on the open fire. It can be made with different kinds of meat, from lamb to chicken, beef and other.

shish kebab Khiva Uzbekistan Central Asia

Shivit Oshi

This special type of pasta is typical for Uzbek city of Khiva. The noodles are green, because they are made with dill, and they are usually served with sour-milk sauce or sauce made with meat and vegetables.

Shivit Oshi Khiva restaurant Uzbekistan Central Asia

Shurpa

This rich soup has many different versions, but it is usually made from vegetables, like carrots, onions, greens, potatoes, it can include also different kinds of meat, and there are always spices added. It is a perfect lunch on a rainy day.

shurpa soup Tamchy Kyrgyzstan Central Asia

Spices

In Kyrgyzstan they do not use a lot of spices in their cuisine, however in Uzbekistan, spices are essential part of the dishes. They use many different spices, from cardamom, turmeric, saffron, cumin, pepper, cayenne to barberries, coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon, sesame seeds and others. You can find all of them in bazaars, where they are nicely presented in all their colours.

spices bazaar Samarkand Uzbekistan Central Asia

Drinks

Tea

You will rarely find coffee, as black or green tea is the drink of choice in both countries. Tea is served in beautiful tea pots and small cups made of porcelain. However, it is interesting, that in Kyrgyzstan they sweeten the tea with different flavours of marmalades.

tea sweets Bukhara Uzbekistan Central Asia
tea Khiva Uzbekistan Central Asia Vanja Vodenik

Wine

You can find local wine in Samarkand in Uzbekistan, as it is one of rare wine growing place in the region. We visited Khovrenko Wine Factory and had an interesting wine tasting. We got to know the history of wine making in Samarkand and tasted many local wines, which are pretty sweet and have high percentage of alcohol.

Khovrenko Wine Factory Samarkand Uzbekistan Central Asia wine tasting
Khovrenko Wine Factory Samarkand Uzbekistan Central Asia

Visited: August & September 2019

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