East is a delicate matter

Discovering new countries and trying interesting national dishes – Dilbar Fayzieva decided to combine these two hobbies in her Food-Blog “On a spoon”.

Judging by your Instagram, Dilbar, you’ve been traveling a lot lately. Is this related to working on your culinary blog? Tell me, please, what is his idea.
I love cooking, and my young man is taking pictures, and we both like to discover new countries and try national dishes. And why not combine these hobbies in a joint project? We set a goal to collect the best recipes around the world, to learn how to cook them under the guidance of experienced chefs and share their impressions and knowledge in his blog “On the Spoon”. The next trip is planned to France, and recently returned from Georgia.

And how did they take you there?
We visited a Georgian family in Kakheti. And this is the main wine-growing region of the country. But we did not prepare wine, but Churchhela, which is also made from grape juice. In general, grapes are a gift of nature. A wine is made from it, a shish kebab is cooked on a dried vine, and then the same grapes are fertilized with this ashes. Even grape cake goes into action: it is used in the preparation of wine on Georgian technology – in Kvevri, special clay jugs. I, of course, was amazed at the amount of wine that is being prepared for the family! But in Georgia wine is not an intoxicating drink, but a part of the national culture.

From your native Tashkent, you probably also brought a lot of interesting staff and useful advice?
Of course. (Smiling.) My young man wanted to get acquainted with our culture. He loves Uzbek pilaf and says that I cook him the best. For him, I cook pilaf with lamb, and for myself – with dried fruits, which, in fact, demonstrated today. I, unlike my chosen one, do not eat meat. So now I’m making pilaf at once in two cauldrons. This is the level! Is it true that pilaf in Uzbekistan is accepted almost for breakfast? It used to be like that. And I will tell you where this tradition came from. In Uzbekistan it is customary to cook pilaf for all holidays, including for the wedding. And before the preparations for the wedding began at five in the morning. The parents of the bride invited the oshpaza – this is a specialist in cooking pilaf, and he cooked for five hundred or six hundred, and even thousands of guests. Now the festivities are increasingly held in the restaurant, and the pilaf comes later, not at five in the morning. (Smiling.) By the way, wedding pilaf and other kinds of it can be tried in the “Plova Center” in Tashkent. This is generally one of the most visited places in the city.

When you order vegetarian pilaf in Tashkent, is it not surprising?
There generally is no such thing as “vegetarian pilaf”. Rice with vegetables – this is not pilaf, consider it, it’s just a side dish. (Laughs.) In Uzbek cuisine, the meat is all over the head. My relatives too long got used to the fact that I refused meat, but this is not a whim, I came to this when I began to live separately and build my own diet on my own. I realized that it’s better for my body. Yes, and my favorite food, I adapt without any problems to vegetarianism.

Advise, what else should you try and see in Uzbekistan?
The real color of Tashkent can be felt by visiting the central market – Chorsu. It is located near the Old Town. Here you can choose souvenirs, and ceramics, and fabrics with national patterns. And in the Old Town, pay attention to the adobe houses that have stood for several centuries, and the oldest madrassah (religious school) Kukeldash, whose walls are lined with beautiful mosaic patterns. But I advise you not to limit yourself to Tashkent; in Uzbekistan there are other cities with a rich history and architecture – these are Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva. I like most of all Samarkand – one of the oldest cities in the world. There are the main masterpieces of Central Asian architecture and are very careful about the national culture. And this is what you need to see at least once. To plan a trip to Uzbekistan is better in May, when everything is already blooming, and the heat is still tolerable. Or in September, in the velvet season.

And in your wardrobe are many outfits in the national style?
I really love Uzbek ikat. I use ethnic elements in clothes, it is now in a trend. I have several favorite brands – for example, in the Moel Bosh dresses I can be seen even on the air of the program “Good Morning”. In general, when I first started working on television in Tashkent, almost all ethereal outfits for me were sewed by my mother. They are still dear to me, I keep them carefully.

Said-Aziz Salikhbaev owner of the restaurant OXUS

OXUS is positioned as a restaurant of author’s oriental cuisine. That is, not only Uzbek dishes on the menu?
Not only, but mostly. The menu contains the most popular dishes of the countries of Central Asia. We take care of our roots, so we use original recipes without any adaptation. But the submission is author’s.

The scale of the menu, like the scale of the restaurant, is impressive. How many halls are there?
On two floors of the restaurant there are six halls: two main and three separate, each with its own kitchen and balcony. Individual rooms are often booked for holidays or just for a company. We also have a summer playground and a closed veranda. We have a large wine room, where over one hundred items are presented.

And for events in individual rooms, your cook stands out?
Oh sure. He cooks here, in the hall, in a special open kitchen. So the guests can not only watch the process, but also if they want to learn how to cook their favorite dish of oriental cuisine – from cakes to pilaf and desserts.

How many cooks do you have?
Twelve. In the Uzbek restaurant, there can not be one universal cook. If it is a shish kebab, it makes a shish kebab, if it’s a croaker, then it works only with a tandoor. As a rule, this, of course, is transmitted from generation to generation. If there is a pilaf in the menu, it should be prepared by an oshpaz, which specializes in this for at least ten years. A real oshpaz should be able to cook five, and ten, and eighty (!) Kilograms of pilaf. And this at a time. Our chef can do this.

Source:OK! magazine