Friends and Food, Dushanbe, Tajikistan: June 8-13, 2015
The whole purpose of returning to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, was to catch up with friends we'd made there in 2011. Our first visit was to the home and art studio of Olim Kamalov and Sarvinoz Hojieva. Their daughter, Bonu, is also an artist who has been learning the art of miniature painting (in the Persian style) from her father.
Sarvinoz insisted that we come for breakfast, and after breakfast, Sarvinoz arranged for a neighbor to drive us all to Kharangon and Kishak Village to visit her friend Obida. Obida produces dairy products like milk and yogurt that she sells to Sarvinoz and other customers.
Obida (above) and her husband, Abdusalom, have five daughters. The oldest daughter was not home. She attends medical school in Dushanbe.
A neighbor with a clay oven (tandor) for making bread
Lunch at Obida's home was a traditional Tajik meal with seasonal fruits, sweets, breads, yogurt, a delicious drink (compot) made from dried fruits soaked in hot water and cooled, and tea served on the floor. We sat around the "table" cloth with cushions at our backs.
The main dish, Qurutob (Қурутоб), is one of Tajikistan’s national dishes consisting of layers of torn Tajik bread (fatir), dried sour yogurt (reconstituted chakka), water/oil, fried onions, tomatoes, peppers served in a hand-carved wooden plate and traditionally eaten with hands. We used spoons that we dipped into the wooden serving bowl. Qurutob is always eaten with a group of people.
Chakka is a yogurt that is drained of its whey similar to a Greek-style yogurt. Chakka can be dried into balls or bricks that will keep forever and travels well. For Qurutob, dried Chakka is reconstituted with water/oil and added to the layers. Qurutob is so very rich that it is good to have a lot of people to share it with.
Two days later, we went to the home of Azim Aminov and Rano Bukharizoda. Azim and Rano are the parents of Nodira who is one of Dan's former co-workers. Nodira is currently in Germany, but Azim and Rano and their granddaughter Hilola insisted that we come for dinner.
Rano and Hilola
Dinner was lovely. Rano made mantu--another of our favorite Tajik dishes, and Hilola made a delicious chocolate-banana layer cake. The table was set with fresh cherries and apricots from their trees and vegetable salads. Mantu is a dumpling filled with minced meat, onions, and spices. Rano's steamed mantu is very delicate and light because she makes a very thin dough for the dumpling. Mantu is served with chakka (here, similar to sour cream) on the side. We consumed copious amounts of Rano's homemade wines and when leaving, she sent us with wine, cherries, and cake.
We met Hilola four years ago just as she was about to travel to Visalia as part of the FLEX program. She attended a Visalia high school for her junior year, and we were able to visit her and her Visalia host family during that year. Now, she is continuing her education in Dushanbe, her English is flawless, she is confident, and she is even more beautiful.
Our last visit to a Tajik home was the home of Farangis and Bahrom. Four years ago, Farangis worked as a translator for the American Bar Association in Dushanbe and was Dan's co-worker. She married Bahrom in September 2011, and they invited us to their reception. Now, they have two beautiful children.
Left: Farangis holding Mohammed
Madina (2-1/2 years old, going on 16)
Bahrom holding Mohammed (10 months old)
Farangis made us another Tajik specialty: Plov (also known as Osh). Plov is a meat and rice pilaf dish. Farangis made her plov with lamb and placed small stuffed grape leaves (dolma) on top of the pyramid of rice and meat. Plov always has carrots that have been cut into the size of matchsticks. She also made samsa (samosa). When Farangis married, she told me that she had never cooked anything which is remarkable given that everything she served us was perfectly executed and delicious.
It was wonderful to have a chance to visit with our friends in Tajikistan.