All of the above can be enjoyed right in the center of the city, in authentic Uzbek restaurants, where visitors can recline on cushions at low tables covered with carpets. Sherali Musayev, who came to Moscow from Tashkent six years ago, is a chef at one of these restaurants, Uryuk.
There are few cities in the world that have such ethnic and culinary diversity as Moscow. You can try dishes from practically all over the world in the Russian capital. One of the ethnic cuisines that has earned a well-deserved popularity among Muscovites and visitors to the city alike is Uzbek cuisine, with its filling Chaikhana plov, samsa, shurpa, lagman soup, kebabs, and inimitable flat breads.
The kitchen that Sherali runs is an open space that is not separated from the rest of the restaurant by any walls. Watching the cooking staff at work is part of the show. As one of them puts a pan on the cooker and the fire flares almost to the ceiling, another is working his magic over a wok full of plov, or Uzbek pilaf. Yet another one is sticking a flat piece of dough to the inside wall of a tandoor oven with a special pair of pincers with a two-meter-long handle. In a matter of minutes, the flat breads are ready and need to be removed from the tandoor with the help of the same pincers.
The tandoor that Sherali cooks his breads in, like himself, has come
from Uzbekistan. The restaurant gets up to 70 percent of its supplies from
Uzbekistan. Sherali explains: "Take carrots, for example. The varieties
that grow in Russia are red and sweet, while for plov carrots must be yellow
and less sweet, so we order them from Uzbekistan." The same goes for the
two types of rice used for wedding plov and chaikhana plov, respectively (the former
is served at wedding feasts and special occasions, while the latter is everyday
‘tearoom’ plov). Plov in general is a very complex thing. "Take three
chefs using the same recipe and they will end up with three plovs that will
each taste different."
Moscow appreciates authenticity (although the Uryuk restaurant itself somewhat adapts authentic Uzbek recipes to make sure they meet the restaurant’s high standards) and does not tolerate people who end up in this business by accident and are not committed to it. Any Uzbek restaurant that values its reputation will have only an ethnic Uzbek as its head chef. People who can make a decent plov will always be able to earn a good living here.
Sherali wanted to move to Moscow in the 1990s but was unable to do that for family reasons: He had two small daughters and a 16-year-old son at the time. The daughters are now married. "We decided that first I'd move over here, settle down, build a house outside Moscow and then my family would join me. So the plan is that they will come in a year's time," he says.