“Uzbekistan” Salad: Pinnacle of Soviet Fusion Food

SalatUzbekistan
“Uzbekistan” salad. Салат «Узбекистан».

A “salad” in America usually means something thrown together quite quickly – some fresh chopped vegetables, some dressing. If there’s any meat at all, then it’s usually extremely dry chicken breast. “Salad”, in other words, is a health food, a convenience food, something you eat on a diet, something you pick at as a side dish, but generally not something you actually want to eat.

Not so in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Salads are usually quite extravagant, complicated dishes served at parties or as a first course. And more often than not, they are anything but healthy – covered in mayonnaise and filled with all sorts of cold cuts. In other words, something you might actually look forward to eating!

american vs russian salads
American salads (top) vs. Russian salads (bottom)

“Uzbekistan” salad, despite the name, isn’t part of traditional Uzbek cuisine. Supposedly, it was invented in the 1950s in Moscow when Uzbek chefs tried to introduce Russians to their national cuisine for the first time. It combines Central Asian green radish with the Russian love of mayonnaise – almost like an Uzbek version of the famous “Olivier” salad. It does look pretty “retro” – it reminds me of something you’d see in 1970s US cookbooks – but trust me, it’s delicious. The green radish is a refreshing complement to the fried onion, mayo, and oven-baked steak.

greenRadishAtStore
Green radishes. Asian groceries should stock them. Daikon tastes similar, but lacks the nice color.

This recipe is adopted from Stalic Khankishiev’s book “Базар, казан и дастархан” as well as Hakim Ganiev’s book “Восточный пир”. Stalic has a video recipe for this dish, but he does it slightly differently than in his book – using yogurt instead of mayonnaise for the dressing.

Ingredients
Green radish – the color is what makes this dish special – but if you can’t find them, substitute with daikon
Mayonnaise – I like Japanese “Kewpie” mayonnaise, but any will do
Beef – use a steak cut
Onion
Garlic
Salt
Pepper

Directions

1. Skin the green radish and slice it into sticks. Let the radish sticks sit in a bowl of salted cold water for 30 minutes.

GreenRadish
2. Skin and chop a few garlic cloves lengthwise.
3. Rub the beef with salt and pepper. Using a knife, make little holes in the beef and stick the garlic pieces inside. Do this all over the beef on both sides. Ainsley Harriott demonstrates the technique quite enthusiastically in this video.
4. Wrap the beef in foil (use at least 2 layers) – make sure it’s tightly sealed, then put it on a baking pan in the oven for 30 minutes at 400F.
BakedMeat

5. Skin an onion, and chop it into rings. Cover the onion rings in flour and sift them a bit to get rid of the excess flour.
6. Deep fry the onion rings until golden brown. Let them drain on a paper towel.
7. When the beef is done (it would taste delicious as-is for a simple meat dish), let it cool down, then slice it into long, thin strips.
8. Layer the bottom of the serving dish with the radish slices, then the meat slices, then cover this with a generous amount of mayonnaise. Put the fried onion rings on top. Imagine you are in one of the finest Uzbek restaurants of Soviet-era Moscow. Priyatnovo appetita!
SalatUzbekistan2

If you don’t want to go all that trouble, a simple salad of green radish, salt, pepper, and oil is a refreshing accompaniment to heavy food and easy to make. It’s no “Uzbekistan” salad, but it’s a nice way to eat green radish.
SimpleRadishSalad

Uyghur laghman noodles with omelette

Lagman2

EatingLagman
Every restaurant has its own variety of laghman. In Uyghur restaurants, it usually means a dish of noodles topped with lamb and vegetables in a tomato-based sauce. In Uzbek or more Russianized restaurants, it’s often more like a noodle soup. In essence, laghman is just wheat noodles with sauce. Even Italian spaghetti bolognese could be considered a distant European cousin of laghman.

I really like the addition of sliced omelette. The recipe is adopted from Abdulaziz Salavat who calls it “suiru lagman”(video in Russian).

Ingredients
Flour, salt, and egg for laghman dough – or buy premade flour noodles
Lamb or beef meat – diced in small pieces
Bell pepper – diced
Tomato paste, 1-2 tablespoons
Onion – diced
Garlic – diced
Salt
Red pepper powder
White pepper powder
Paprika
Chinese black vinegar (e.g. Chinkiang vinegar)
Soy sauce
Cilantro – chopped
3-4 eggs (for omelette), beaten

Directions
1. Make the laghman noodles following the directions in the previous post. Boil in salted water until done, then rinse and plate.
RinseNoodle

2. Prepare the omelette in a separate pan: fry the beaten eggs in oil until solid, turn and fry a bit more on other side. Cut the omelette into slices.
CutOmelette

3. Over high heat, stir-fry the lamb pieces in a heated wok until lightly browned.

4. Add in the onion and cook until soft and translucent.

5. Add the garlic and a bit of cilantro, cook this until the garlic is fragrant.
add garlic

6. Add in the tomato paste, cooking it for a bit first, and mix well.

7. Add some water or bouillon to make a sauce. Turn the heat down to medium. Add in the bell peppers and cook for a bit.
Cooking

8. Add salt, white pepper, red pepper, and paprika. Let everything cook and the sauce reduce for a bit.

9. Add a dash of soy sauce and black vinegar. Add in the cilantro.

10. Finished! Top the noodles with sauce and omelette slices.
LagmanTop