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RUSSIAN REGIONAL SPECIALTIES
Lamb, rice, and yogurt predominate the cuisine while soups and stews are
the favored forms of cooking. A custard of eggs sprinkled liberally with
fresh green herbs forms the final garnish to many dishes, and exotic
seasonings include saffron, cinnamon, pomegranate seeds, and the dried
powder of plums and barberry. Other Central Asian dishes include pilafs
(a base of seasoned rice served with meat or fish together with
vegetables or fruits) and shashlyk (skewered broiled meats). Kyurdyuk,
the fat rendered from Entailed sheep, is used liberally both in cooking
and as a final flavor fillip (like a dab of butter). The keufta or
meatballs are astonishing in size, many weighing several pounds,
sometimes cooked with a whole chicken inside. But it is piti, the
Azerbaijan thick lamb soup served in earthenware bowls that is
considered the outstanding specialty. Generally, a preference for tart
and sour flavors predominates, an example being dovga, a thick soup of
yogurt, rice, and greens served as dessert.
Eastern Mediterranean cuisine predominates in this region with rice as
the staple, along with stuffed vegetables, yogurt both as beverage and
ingredient, and great variety in fruits and vegetables. Lamb is the
favored meat, lamb fat is preferred for cooking, olive oil is used for
salads and stuffed vegetables, while butter is used only occasionally in
This area's unleavened wheat bread is made only with flour and water.
Onions and garlic are much beloved; walnuts and pine nuts are pounded
into sauces or used in dishes and fillings, While the exotic fragrance
of rosewater, cumin, mint, and coriander enhance many other dishes.
A huge area in large part consisting of a dried-up sea basin whose
plateaus and deserts are visited with extremes of climate, the Soviet
Central Asian republics include Turkmen and Uzbek, Tadzhik and Kirghiz
and the Kazakh republic north of those.
Nomads still roam the lands with herds of horses and camels, goats and
sheep, yaks and cattle and live primarily on cheeses, lamb, mutton, and
horsemeat. Their beverages include green tea and the fermented mare's
milk called kumiss. When meats and rice are available, they are cooked
usually by steaming in a sheepskin pouch that is lowered into a pit of
hot coals then banked with earth or sand. Open fires are used for
broiling skewered meats and heating water for tea.
The rest of Central Asian cuisine is similar to Azerbaijan cookery with
few exceptions. These include the use of sauces made of crushed garlic
and broth, and crushed garlic and yogurt to be poured over meats,
general use of carrots in most Uzbek dishes, and the popularity of
stuffed steamed dumplings of which manty is the most famous. Pilafs are
the most popular rice dishes while many types of flat almost unleavened
breads accompany most meals.
Other than the nomads, the peoples of Central Asia live in permanent
homes and consequently have a wider variety of cooking utensils and
techniques which include chopping foods into small morsels and cooking
by stir-frying; steaming foods in a type of double boiler; and cooking
foods by dipping into a Mongolian hot pot where the food morsels are
eaten first and the broth served later. Staple vegetables include
pumpkin, onions, and turnips and more recently tomatoes and potatoes.
Fresh green herbs, spicy hot peppers, onions and garlic all add zest to
what is basically a well-balanced diet of meats, milk and cheeses,
seasonal fruits (or preserved fruit syrups) and vegetables.
Some Central Asian specialties are:
Bozbash: a thick Azerbaidzh mutton and veoetable soup.
Chikhirtma: a chicken or lamb soup finished with beaten yolks and lemon
Chup Oshi: an Uzbek dish of tossed cooked noodles, fried onions, and
Dyushbara or Byushperc: the Caucasian form of dumplings.
Palov: the Uzbek name for pilaf.
One cannot think of Georgian cuisine without thinking of walnuts.
Pounded into a paste and combined with garlic and fiery-hot peppers,
walnuts make a sauce that is used to flavor and garnish many dishes. But
that is not all. Walnut oil is used in cooking, walnuts are made into
candied treats, and chopped walnuts are a nutritious ingredient in
stews, soups, and appetizers. Corn and many varieties of beans as well
as soured milks (sheep, buffalo) and curds form the staples, but in good
times there is also an abundance of stone fruits eaten fresh and dried
and used as syrups, sauces, preserves, and even in soups.
Fresh green herbs are often eaten out of the hand as snacks or liberally
used in the form of garnishes, salads, or seasonings. Eggplants,
pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, radishes, onions and scallions precede most
meals of which a plate of beans is usually a part, together with stewed
or roasted lamb, kid, or fowl.
Georgians enjoy wines but are not big sweet-eaters. A great variety of
bread from the thin crisp lavashi to the heavy corn bread called tchadi
or mchadi as well as the elliptical puri baked from wholegrain wheat and
leavened with sourdough starter is a part of all meals.
Some Georgian specialties are:
Chicken Tabaca: young chickens split, flattened, butter-browned, and
served with pickled vegetables.
Khadja Puri: a dessert of hot bread filled with cheese.
Lobio: a cold appetizer dish of cooked beans dressed with Satsivi, one
of the walnut sauces, or a sauce of pomegranate seeds and juice.
Tchadi or Mchadi: a coarse heavy bread of cornmeal often baked with a
layer of cheese or onions in the middle.