Iftar Choyhona

One of my favorite traditions in Uzbekistan is going out to the choyhana (teahouse) with friends for dinner. Choyhonas used to be shaded tables near a river in the summer where friends gather to share the national dish of plov (rice pilaf). Today, there are many restaurants that recreate the scene with private rooms and big tables for large groups. They still serve endless cups of Uzbek tea. I’ve grown to like the unsweetened, light tea that is always served when people gather in Uzbekistan.

Last night Mukhtor chose a choyhona located in the far northeast of the city, Art Chinor restaurant. 20 of us gathered to eat, talk, laugh, and generally enjoy each other’s company. In Uzbekistan, the teahouses are segregated by sex, and so it is only men or only women in the private dining rooms. The meal starts with salads and bread followed by heaping plates of plov. Plov is usually cooked in huge wide pots over a fire. This plov had rice, garlic, peppers, horse, lamb, “jiz” (sheep fat), carrots, etc. It is quite filling and maybe not the best for my cholesterol. It is delicious and we had a great time.

I learned about a traditional Uzbek dessert called nisholda. It is egg white, with sugar and herbs whipped for a long period of time. You can spread it on bread or crackers like Nutella or peanut butter. It is usually prepared and served around the holidays. With the end of Ramadam taking place tomorrow, it was served last night.

During Ramadan, traffic around sunset gets a bit hectic. Many people go out for their iftar (evening dinner) after fasting all day long. What normally should be a 20-minute drive, took me 40 minutes to go from my house to the restaurant. I like the festive atmosphere of the city in the evenings during Ramadan. I would like to thank Mukhtor for organizing the evening. It is always nice to connect and unwind with my Uzbek and foreign colleagues in a convivial setting.

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