Monday, November 11, 2013

"Ethnic" food

Our favorite dumpling house has just opened a third location in the Los Angeles metro area.  In its honor, Kevin sent me a link to an article by LA Times food writer Jonathan Gold's favorite dumplings (鼎泰豐的小籠包).  Makes me hungry just thinking about it!  In Los Angeles we are so used to having a spectrum of food options... we regularly enjoy regional Chinese, regional Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Armenian.  Not a month goes by that we don't savor at least these cuisines, in addition to what we cook ourselves and our comfort foods (pizza, pasta, BBQ, In-N-Out Burger).  And, there are plenty of times we simply want Korean. or Indian. get the idea. So, how will we fare in Kazakhstan?

In Astana, there seems to be a number of legitimate restaurants with atmosphere, service, high quality ingredients and preparation...but they cater to the business crowd, or rather, the expense account crowd.  It is not cheap to eat out here.  From what I've seen so far entrees are $20-30, and appetizers are $12-18.  Not Michelin star restaurant prices, but expensive for the level of the restaurant.

To date I've seen a handful of larger, experiential restaurants - with live music, performers, almost theme-park like decorations.  For instance, I visited a Ukrainian restaurant, Melnitsa, that has a lit windmill on its exterior and a small courtyard with pens for animals and plots for vegetable growing. Inside the very large restaurant there is a barn, a bridge and stream and stenciled flowers.  It's sweet, but there's a lot going on!

At the same time, there is allegedly a pretty large Chinese community, so we are in search of local restaurants. But, the go-to "ethnic" food seems to be Uzbeki!

Most of the Central Asian peoples have historically been nomads...except the Uzbeks.  As they stayed in place they planted crops (i.e., vegetables), harvested wheat and rice, and developed a stronger culture of craft-making (pottery and carpets).  And, they have a number of classic dishes.

Shashlik - grilled meat cooked on skewers. AKA kebabs.
Plav - what I would call "rice pilaf". Flavored rice served with chunks of meat (beef, veal or lamb) and vegetables, onions.
Non - sesame bread that kind of looks like a bagel.
Cucumber salad with olives, tomatoes, parsley
Manti - dumplings with beef and onions inside, served with a thin tomato sauce (think marinara)

Sure, sounds familiar... not so different than Greek/Armenian/Lebanese food, right? So far it seems to be equally delicious.

However, the local touch is to offer the above with horse meat!  We'll let you know when we try it.

Taking bets: does horse meat taste like chicken?

1 comment:

  1. I'm guessing horse meat tastes a lot like donkey, and donkey is evidently pretty tasty!