Tajik Meat Dishes

Tajik Meat Dishes

Meat in Tajikistan is generally added to both soups and main courses. When in country you are sure to encounter these popular Tajik meat dishes:

Pilaf (plov) is one of the most beloved dishes in Tajikistan and is almost always served to guests. There are many Tajik plov recipes, for it is prepared differently in each region, but the key ingredients are meat, rice, carrots, onions and spices.

The most commonly used oil for pilaf is cottonseed oil. It is overheated in a dry cast-iron pot until a light smoke appears, for it is believed that this will ensure that the food will not burn. After onions have been fried in the oil, mutton or beef is browned before yellow carrots cut into strips are added. This mixture of meat, onions and carrots is called zerbak. It is covered with boiled water and, depending on the type of pilaf, chickpeas, raisins, garlic, barberries, quince, cumin and other spices are added. Lastly the rice is added and the dish continues to cook until the water evaporates.

The most popular varieties of plov in Tajikistan are Khujand or Sogdian pilaf (otherwise known as valley pilaf), which resemble Uzbek pilaf. Dushanbe and Badakhshan (Pamir Mountains) pilafs are also popular, as is the amazing ugro-pilaf (ugro-palav). To make ugro-pilaf, homemade noodles which are fried until golden brown and chopped to the size of rice grains are used in place of actual rice. If unexpected guests have arrived and there is no time to prepare the noodles for ugro-pilaf, the hostess may buy noodles in the store to prepare "macaroni plov".

A dish called shawla (shavlya) is essentially a cross between pilaf and porridge. It is made with meat, rice, onions and carrots but differs from pilaf in that any rice may be used for shawla and the zerbak does not need to boil as long. Another variation is gelak-palav, which is made with meatballs.

Kebabs are the second most common meat dish in Tajikistan. The most famous type is made by grinding  lamb tenderloin into minced meat and adding onions, salt and pepper. The minced meat is then used to make small kebabs which are rolled in flour and fried until golden brown. In a separate pot, onions should also be fried until golden before the half-cooked kebabs and a little meat broth are added and stewed.

Tandoor-kebab (tanur-kabob) is traditionally made from mutton which is marinated and baked over low heat in a clay tandoor oven. The most delicious pieces are those that have touched the walls of the tandoor! In modern variations, tandoor-kebab is made with beef, chicken or several types of meat at once.

Pamir kebab is a lamb or beef stew. The meat is fried with onions until golden brown and then covered with water and stewed over low heat. The finished dish is placed on plates and the meat sauce poured over it before it is sprinkled with black pepper and herbs.

Murkabob is one of the more unusual Tajik meat dishes, for it is made not with red meat but with roasted poultry (usually chicken) that is cooked with onions and carrots.

Sihkabobi (shashlik) is grilled meat. It is usually made from lamb or beef with added fat but can also be prepared with chicken, liver or vegetables. The meat is cut into large pieces and left to marinate for a couple of hours in a cool place. Each chef has his own recipe for the marinade, which can include onions, wine, kefir, lemon, pomegranate juice or wine vinegar. The marinated meat is placed on skewers, grilled over coals and served with freshly sliced onions. 

Tajiks also eat an unusual type of kebab called shikabobi boogie. To prepare this dish the meat is cut, pickled and placed on skewers but is steamed in a pot or pan instead of grilled.

Caburga are small rolls of lamb tenderloin. To prepare this dish, a lamb brisket is pounded and topped with a little bacon, chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper before being rolled up. Cabbage is fried for 15-20 minutes while separately carrots and onions are cut into thin strips and mixed with tomato paste and broth. The vegetable mixture is baked with the meat loaves in a traditional or modern oven. It is customary to serve caburga cold with pickled vegetables or apples.

Kaurdak (kavurdok, kuyrdak) is made from fatty lamb and vegetables. After the meat has browned, tomatoes, potatoes and onions are added to the pot and cooked until tender.

Jazza (chazza) is lamb and fat tail cooked with onions over a fire. It is usually served with hot bread.

Shahlet consists of ground beef fried with onions and rice which is boiled separately. The ingredients are mixed, spread atop a thin layer of grease or lard and tied with a thread. The rolls may either be fried or boiled.

Damlama (dymlama) is a roast made from lamb, onions, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and chickpeas.