The Birthday Host

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

Akmal, friend of @gldncrl, invited me to stay with him, his wife, and daughter, at their home in Tashkent. When I arrive, there are already some dishes on the table. There is spicy picked tripe that has a familiar taste to me. “Is this Uzbek?” I asked him.

“Korean. This is a big Korean neighborhood,” he tells me.

 

I’d heard there was a huge Korean population in Uzbekistan. Many ethnic Koreans were deported here to be laborers during the Stalin era, and remained. Since then, the community grew.

We snack on various banchan as appetizers before an upcoming main course (an Uzbek one). “Do you want wine? Vodka? Both?” my gracious host asks me.

“Uh, both.”

We raise welcome shots of vodka in the air and I don’t know if we’re supposed to cheer in English, Korean, Uzbek, or Russian, but we agree on a hearty nazdroviya.

“Happy birthday,” Akmal adds.



For the main course of my impromptu birthday dinner, we have a traditional Uzbek plov (pilaf), this particular variation in the Fergana region style where Akmal is from. Akmal thought it’d be fun to make it together since I like to cook, and he’s been on cooking duties as of late since his wife Nodira is eight months pregnant with their second child (a boy).

@Gldncrl and Akmal went to school together in Scotland and somehow they’ve developed an inside joke where everyone that visits Akmal has to do some sort of manual work. I don’t mind though — in fact I welcome it. I’m happy to peel white and red carrots as Akmal browns the meat and carmelizes onions in boiling oil. I make my Korean friends proud (@calculatorprice @shimshima) by washing the rice six times until the water is clear.

Akmal and I take turns at the stove and eventually we make a delicious plov with sliced carrots, onions, beef, garbanzos, cumin and an egg garnish.

“This came out better than I thought,” Akmal says as we sit down to eat with Nodira. We eat from the same plate, which is customary.

Later, after a few glasses of wine and green tea, I wash the dishes.

 


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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

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Make It Rain

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Adventures in Border Crossing: Into Uzbekistan




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