Time to turn your tastebuds Central Asia way again, this time taking them to the sandy country of Uzbekistan. I spent three says in sunny Uzbekistan last year only, it was a quick zip through the country from Tajikistan to Turkmenistan, but I did eat out a couple of times so hopefully I can give you a bit of a recommendation as to the places I visited – Samarkand and Khiva.
The cuisine of the region I have talked about before, with a love of meat and potatoes, meat on a stick known as shashlik, dumplings and stews the main staples. Salad is also available readily, but generally you have to be very careful because the tap water is not safe to drink in Central Asia, which means unless you can be sure that they used purified water or you have an iron gut or one that’s used to the bugs and bacteria that lives in the local water, you best avoid it if it hasn’t been cooked. Personally, my stomach is sensitive – the very opposite of an iron gut, so I give salad a wide berth after a number of bad experiences.
Bibi Khanym Teahouse
Here is a place I stopped for lunch in Samarkand. It was pleasant in many ways, a tent outside, which was kept warm enough. It was very popular with the tourists and the guides – I think a number of tables were for tour groups with their guides. So it was probably a place that gave a bit of a kickback to the tour guides to bring the customers in. But all in all I had some rice and chicken and one single beef skewer along with crinkle cut fries. It sounds like a lot but it wasn’t that much. It filled me up though and was a decent meal, there were a few options there in the middle of the tourist area, next to the Bibi Khanym Mosque, from which it took its name.
In the Old City part of town, this is a restaurant I THINK my guesthouse recommended. I say ‘think’ because they gave me directions but I couldn’t remember the name and this is where I ended up. There are a few options in the Old City, and this one is big on the meat. But I wanted to try the Laghmann, the stew which I’d wanted to try for a while. It was rich, had meat and vegies, but it was a little spicy for me sadly. I had some in Turkmenistan, and it was really good but not spicy at all so I guess the ‘spice factor’ depends on the tastes of the chefs, and the regions.
Luckily I had just met this Romanian guy who at it for me. Yes, it was Gino Pop! Friend of the blog and travel vlogger extraordinaire. Read all about him here in this interview I did with him – Exclusive Interview with intrepid Vlogger Gino Pop! Instead I had a couple of delicious shashlik with rice. The place is quite big and looks popular, I would recommend it if you’re in Samarkand. Also in Samarkand the first time I found the famed 7Days Croissant which is big in Eastern Europe and a favourite of mine! Always excited when I see it available in a place I wasn’t expecting!
Onto the town of Khiva, a full day’s journey from Samarkand over the desert. This ancient city is brilliant for the tourist, worth a couple of days and is UNESCO Heritage listed. Take a look at the amazing Khiva here – Khiva in Pictures.
I arrived in Khiva after night had fallen, and I was starving. I asked for a recommendation from my hotel – the Arkanchi Hotel – and they recommended the Terrassa Café. I was just happy to find a place that was open to be fair, as it was around 9pm by the time I headed out for dinner, and this was a nice two-level restaurant, and I was directed to the upstairs part.
Inside there were a lot of tables, maybe 1 in 5 were taken, all with foreigners. Keep in mind that I was inside the Ancient City of Khiva here, and so most places are catering specifically for tourists. Here I tried Gosht Gumma, which I had described by the friendly waiter there as meat dumpling, but in fact was a large sort of pocket with pastry on the outside. And I really liked it. They had a bit of a bar there too and another really large menu, and I was pretty happy with the choice.
I was so happy with this café, despite it being a little pricey, that I returned there had was really impressed by the shashlik this time. I say pricey, it’s very much a comparative thing because the shashlik meal with side and drink was around $5USD. I also went to another place for lunch that I didn’t think to write down the name for. I had a sort of dumpling soup there, they were like ravioli and I was pretty disappointed. Plus, it didn’t cost much less than a couple of shashlik, chips and drink which added to the disappointment.
That actually covers my five meals out that I had in Uzbekistan over three days last year. Breakfasts were all at the guesthouses – and were pretty decent all told. Helps if you like meat, dumplings, things on a skewer! Thanks for reading today, take care – and May the Journey Never End!