Tajikistan, located in Central Asia, is a country characterized by its mountainous terrain, with over 90% of its landmass covered by mountains.
Tajikistan was once part of the Persian Empire and later came under the rule of various Central Asian empires and kingdoms. Later, it became part of the Russian Empire until gaining independence in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
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Most Popular Tajik Dishes
Tajik cuisine is characterized by its use of fresh and seasonal ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat and grains.
Meat, particularly lamb and beef, plays a significant role in Tajik cuisine. Dishes like kebabs, or shashlik, and meat stews are popular, often cooked with fragrant spices such as cumin, coriander and garlic.
Rice is a staple grain and is commonly served as a side dish or as the base for dishes. Dairy products, including yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese are essential ingredients in many Tajik dishes.
Tajikistan’s food culture is rooted in hospitality and sharing meals with family and friends. A traditional Tajik meal often begins with a gesture of offering bread and salt to guests, symbolizing warmth and friendship.
Here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Tajikistan along with recipes to try for yourself.
Osh (Meat and Rice)
Tajikistan’s version of rice pilaf, Osh, is a flavorful and aromatic dish made with rice, meat (commonly lamb or beef), vegetables, and spices. This special dish is served on the Persian New Year, or Navruz, when families will host a big feast together to celebrate.
Manti (Steamed Dumplings)
Manti are steamed dumplings filled with a mixture of minced meat, usually made from lamb or beef, and onions.
These dumplings are a popular side dish, snack or appetizer in Tajikistan and are often served with a side of yogurt or sour cream.
Manti recipes may vary across the country as each family will have their own recipe passed down between generations. This dish is can also be found in other countries around the world, such as Korea, and Turkmenistan.
Shashlik (Skewered Meat)
Shashlik are skewered and grilled pieces of meat, usually marinated in a blend of spices and herbs and cooked over hot coals. Original recipes used lamb, but today beef or pork is also commonly used.
Some recipes will use only meat on the skewers, while others will involve alternating meat cubes with vegetables like bell peppers and onions.
Shashlik is a popular street food in Tajikistan, often served with a salad and onions. Similar dishes can be found in countries across the world, from Turkish shish kebabs to Afghan Chopan Kabobs.
Qurutob (Bread Salad)
Qurutob, also known as bread salad, is a traditional dish made by layering flatbread soaked in a savory tomato and yogurt sauce, topped with vegetables and herbs.
Qurutob also contains Qurut, balls of salted, dried yoghurt, which are used as the base of the salad.
This salad is usually served from a large platter for sharing, and is often seen at special occasions and family meals in Tajikistan.
Mastava (Rice Soup)
Mastava is a hearty soup made with lamb or beef, rice, tomatoes and a variety of vegetables. Chakka or Katyk, sour milk, is often also added.
Mastava is considered a comforting and nourishing dish in Tajikistan, commonly enjoyed during cold winter months, and is thought to have been inspired by the Uzbek dish also named Mastava.
Sambusa, similar to Indian samosas, are triangular pastries filled with a savory mixture of minced meat, onions, and spices. They are baked or deep-fried until golden and crispy, and usually served with
These are a popular street food or snack in Tajikistan and can also be found in grocery stores. Vegetarian sambusas are also commonly available.
Kazy (Horse Sausage)
Kazy is a traditional Tajik sausage made from horsemeat. This is a specialty dish that is often served during festive occasions and celebrations.
The sausage is cured and then air-dried, resulting in a distinct flavor and texture. It is often seasoned with black pepper and garlic, and usually cased in horse intestines.
Shurbo is a hearty soup made with meat, legumes, and a variety of vegetables. This dish is often enjoyed during the winter months.
The soup is thick and rich, and there are different types made with different types of meat. Serka shurbo is made with lamb, kaurmo shurbo is made with beef, and murgi shurbo uses chicken. Shurbo is usually served with bread and fresh greens.
Kompot (Fruit Drink)
Kompot is a traditional beverage made by simmering fruits, such as apples, pears, and berries, in water with sugar. Different flavors, such as vanilla or cinnamon, may be added to kompot.
This drink can be enjoyed at both warm and cold temperatures, making it popular throughout the year. In Ukraine, a similar drink called Uzvar is prepared with fruits and honey.