Mention Tajikistan and you’re likely to get a blank stare. This central Asian country is adjacent to China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to dine at an Iranian restaurant, or even better, be invited to an Iranian home, you’ll have an idea of what Tajik food is like, since it is heavily influenced from Iran. There are also some similarities to Russian cuisine, and you’ll find dishes like pirmeni everywhere, which are very similar to the pierogi found in Eastern Europe.
The meal is typically quite elegant and served in multiple courses, usually starting out with a sweet appetizer, followed by a main course of meat with a soup dish. You’ll be served hot tea, although at restaurants, alcohol is also available. Cold tea is usually unavailable.
Fruits and National Food
As is the case with Iranian cuisine, fresh fruit is a big part of cuisine. A common dish is shashlyk, which is mutton, grilled on skewers. Every meal is served with naan—don’t set it upside down, it’s bad luck. The national dish, oshi palov, includes rice, along with carrots and meat. It is often served on holidays or special occasions, or even as a peace offering to end a quarrel.
No Dinner anywhere
Tajikistan isn’t well known as a tourist haven, and so if you’re looking for European or American food, you’ll probably be out of luck. Also, restaurants usually are not open in the evenings, so if you’re traveling in Tajikistan, your biggest meal of the day will be lunch.
Food plays a major role in Tajik culture and beliefs, as well as in national celebrations. If you are invited to a Tajik household, you will see certain customs—before mealtime, a family member may bring out water for hand washing, and during the meal, there is usually very little conversation. The Eldest person is usually served first.
If you’re fortunate to visit Tajikistan on the national holiday of Navruz, you’ll enjoy a special holiday dish known as Sumalak to symbolize the start of spring. This unusual dish is usually cooked by a group rather than an individual, and includes wheat juice, oil, and flour.