Uzbekistan is an oftentimes forgotten country in Central Asia with a very rich history. Some of its cities are among the oldest and were once ranked among the world's greatest cities - including as centers of learning. Its ancient cities were once the glory of the ancient world and today these have been well preserved.

Uzbekistan is central to any tour along the ancient Silk Road, and believe it or not, there is even a high-speed train linking the most important cities. Along the way, one can indulge in some of the world's most delicious that according to The Lancet may actually be to die for.

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The Deep History and Rich Background of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union and achieved independence in 1991. During the days of the Soviet Union, it was famous for having some of the best cuisines of the massive country (along with Georgia). But its history goes back long be for the Soviet Union - or Russia itself existed.

  • Fun Fact: Uzbekistan Is One of Only Two Doubly Landlocked Countries (Where Every Country Bordering it Is Also Landlocked)

Uzbekistan is truly a land of ancient history - being home to the fabled Scythians thousands of years ago. It was likely these Scythian nomadic peoples that gave rise to the Greek mythology of the Amazon warriors (women in ancient Greece had few rights and seeing women on horseback at all would have been a dazzling sight to the ancient Greeks).

  • Scythians: Uzbekistan Was Once The Land of The Scythians (Possibly the Nomadic Tribes Behind the Myths of The Amazons)

The land of what is today Uzbekistan has been part of many empires including the Persian Empire, the Greek or Macedonian Empire, the Parthian Empire, the Sasanian Empire, the Samanid Empire, the Timurid Empire, and the Russian Empire (later the Soviet Union).

  • Silk Road: Uzbekistan Is On The Silk Road
  • Historic Cites: Samarkand, Khiva, and Bukhara (Great Cities During The Islamic Golden Age)

It is no wonder then that these historic lands along the ancient Silk Road enjoy a remarkable culinary tradition. Its cuisine is hearty, rich, and delicious (if not often a little oily). Uzbekistan is the most popular country in Central Asia and is certainly worth visiting.

Related: What To Know About Georgia's Cuisine, Which Was Once Regarded As The Best In The Soviet Union

The Deliciousness of Uzbekistani Cuisine

The society was traditionally agrarian so it is designed to be full of calories to sustain those workers in the fields. The BBC notes that

"(Uzbekistan) recipes are heavy on meat, relying primarily on the fatty sheep that graze in the country’s pastureland. Other staple ingredients include flour, rice, vegetables and oil, as well as spices such as cumin, pepper, coriander, cinnamon and bay leaves."

One will find many ingenious ways of cooking and preparing food in the country including producing mouth-watering dumplings, soups, noodles, kebabs, and fried rice dishes.

The recipes vary around the country and every region is different and that's just another reason to travel around once one gets there. The most popular dishes are:

  • Lagman: A Type of Noodle Meat Soup
  • Somsa: A Type of Pastry/Savory Pie Filled With Mean and Onion Cooked In A Clay Oven
  • Shashlik: A Kebab or Grilled Meat On A Skewer With Spices
  • Manti: Steamed Dumplings With Meat and Onions
  • Plov: Fried Rice (But Infinitely More Imaginative and Delicious Than That Boring Translation Suggests)
  • Shurpa: A Type of Soup Made With Meat And Vegetable

Related: According To The Lancet, This Country Has The Healthiest Food

A Diet To Die For?

In 2017 The Lancet published a global study that dove into diet-related deaths. It found that Uzbekistan was the worst for diet-related deaths - with around one in five deaths being from poor diet (mostly from too much salt and too few whole grains and fruits - strange as there are many fresh fruits in the country).

  • Uzbekistan: Highest for Diet-Related Deaths According To The Study

This study upset the Uzbekistanis as many are proud of their national cuisines.

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One Uzbekistani gastroenterologist, Lola Abdurakhimova, argued that it isn't the food itself but the changing lifestyles of the people. It was good for labor-intensive farmers but not for sedentary modern life.

  • Lifestyle: Its The Lifestyle Has Changed In Uzbekistan

Also eating is an important part of the Uzbekistani lifestyle, if one is socializing, one should be eating. So make sure one hasn't eaten before visiting Uzbekistani friends.

Still no matter how unhealthy The Lancet would have us believe that Uzbekistani food is, it's unlikely to be as bad as the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas.

Uzbekistani cuisine is exotic, rich, and one of the main reasons to visit the country. Just make sure to spend the day walking around its fabulously ancient Silk Road cities to work it off afterward.

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