Local Twists

I visited Uzbekistan again this evening but first checked the internet for what people recommended.  Following the wisdom of the vox populi is something I’d like to make a habit and I found its commentary interesting.  Most reviewers loved the restaurant’s food but commented on its cold service, “authentic Russian food with authentic Russian service”, but one user panned it for not being appropriately authentic.  With this in mind, I reviewed the menu again and ordered three things and then did my homework regarding their authenticity:

Chahohbili – This is a traditional Georgian chicken stew.  Normally, it’s made with drum sticks and a special type of hot pepper, Uzbekistan’s version used the ubiquitous Philadelphia chicken wing and Italian-style hot peppers.

Tandoor Bread – Authentic bread of this kind will be made in a cylindrical oven that almost looks like a kiln.  Tandoori food, a la Tandoori chicken, would be cooked in the same way.   Uzbekistan used something close to a wood-fire pizza oven so horizontal instead of vertical.

Shish Kebab – A kebab is just about any meat cooked over a flame.  You could accurately call a grilled hamburger a ground beef kabob.  A shish kebab is generally skewered and is popular because it takes advantage of small, cheap cuts of meat.  It requires little fuel to prepare making it a popular street food.   Uzbekistan probably makes shashlik, which is a popular Russian variant as the meat has a distinct marinade taste to it.

So, why the above notes?  Because I like the contrasting stories of the restaurant vs. the reviewer that panned it as inauthentic.   Central Asian food always struck me as focusing on practicality and here the restaurant extends that tradition.  In another city where wings weren’t as cheap, the Georgian stew might use another piece of chicken as the base.  I wonder if the poster commenting on inauthenticity was saying “I want home” or  “I’m being an authenticity monitor”.  The first is a very human story to me.