This picture was taken at one of Tashkent‘s market places, which, in a more Oriental fashion, we usually refer to as bazaars. There are several big bazaars in the city and most of them still function just the way they did hundreds of years ago, although, of course, they pay proper attention to sanitation and food safety.
Traditionally, bazaars are not only the place to buy food, but also, and more importantly, to socialise, hear the latest news and bargain vigorously.
At the Mirabad Bazaar – pictured in this photo – you will find a huge variety of products, from clothing to all sorts of fruits and vegetables for which Uzbekistan is so famous. Being a country with hot climate (for 250 days a year there is sunny weather), Uzbekistan is a major producer of excellent fruits – peaches, grapes, cherry, melons and watermelons. The fruits are very sweet and have a natural taste, unlike those found in your local grocery store.
Uzbek fruits are known and exported all around Russia and former Soviet countries. Another good use of the fruits is to dry them and consume them during winter, along with a great abundance of nuts, which are used raw, salted and/or fried.
The bazaar is usually very big, with sections devoted to meat, meat products and fish, fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products, nuts, and sweets and dry fruits. The last is the spice area, smelling of cinnamon, coriander, pink, cayenne and sweet pepper.
Some of the spices and nuts, as well as natural dyes, are imported from India, China and Iran along the ancient Silk Road running from Xinjiang in China via Central Asia, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, through Turkmenistan and Iran in the south, to Turkey and the Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages, before the sea way around Eurasia was found, thousands of camel caravans brought silk, paper and spices from China and India to Europe and then returned with industrial products.
As Uzbek people have always been involved mainly in agriculture and cattle breeding, their dishes usually contain a lot of meat and fat. The main dish, called pilaf or plov (the Russian name), is made of rice and meat, with lots of spices such as barberries, saffron, cumin, coriander and garlic. In some areas and recipes, dried apricots and raisins are added too.
Needless to say, visiting local bazaars is a central part of any tour program in Tashkent.