Uzbekistan: Trains, Plov & Bread Gods

On the importance of timing in Uzbekistan…

“Sold out.”

At the plov center, 11:00am means 11:00am. We showed up 10 minutes past to find a full dining room and heaping piles of slow-cooked lamb soaked rice on every table.

The next day we returned.

In Uzbekistan, plov is serious. To say plov is the national dish of Uzbekistan is like saying Bills fans care about football. Plov is an obsession, a daily ritual, a time where bread is broken, the community gathers. I quickly found out the reason for the timing when I stepped back into the kitchen. A giant golf umbrella sized pan housed the entirety of the dish. Rice, carrots, lamb, all that lamb fat and juices, spices, it’s a one-pot show and when it’s ready, it’s ready. Each grain of rice is perfect, the lamb melts away. A plov master is a composer, an architect of making sure every component is cooked perfectly and ready for the exact moment diners arrive.

“Plov Centers” dot the countryside of Uzbekistan. This one was on the outskirts of Samarkand. They are more like a community center with food than a restaurant. I couldn’t understand why this was not more of a thing in other countries. A hall of 80 people sitting down to one perfectly cooked dish with some bread and tea, no staggered service, all the focus and expertise concentrated into one preparation. It’s a wonderful idea. The love and effort of a home-cooked meal at a family reunion but open to the public. When in Uzbekistan, you plov, just don’t show up late.

-Reggie Milligan, Co-Founder of Mantry.com

Episode Intel:

Samarqand Osh Markazi
IBN SINO St, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Reggie Ate: Plov (a main course typically made with rice, pieces of meat, carrots and spices).

Siab Bazaar
Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Reggie Ate: Apricots, Uzbek kurt (a ball made from dry sour milk). Train from Tashkent to Samarkand to Bukhara

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Originally published at https://mantry.com.

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