As 2015 commenced, YPIA’s Europe and Eurasia program highlighted the country of Uzbekistan. As one of Eurasia’s artistic capitals, Uzbekistan is a constitutional republic bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Afghanistan to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southwest. Not only does Uzbekistan boast stunning architecture and several ancient cities, but also enjoys a fascinating history of hosting travelers along the Silk Road, a central location of cultural exchange between the East and West.
On January 9, our two part series began with a celebration of Orthodox Christmas and Uzbek cuisine at Rus-Uz, a trendy Russian-Uzbek fusion bistro in Arlington, Virginia. Although only a small percentage of Uzbeks mark this holiday, the dual occasion allowed YPIA members and friends to experience a congenial evening of Uzbek culture and culinary heritage.
A relatively young nation since its break from the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan’s landscape has greatly influenced its national cuisine. In particular, a wealth of produce resulting from fertile valleys between mountains and deserts have resulted in several hearty dishes. In the warm months, fruits, vegetables, and nuts abound in salads, while the winter fare traditionally entails noodle, potato, and rice recipes. YPIA favorites from Rus-Uz included “Pirozhki”, traditional dumplings with various fillings, “Plov”, the national rice dish of Uzbekistan consisting of carrots, chickpeas, raisins, spices and lamb, and “Qovurma Lagmon”, a pasta dish fried with tomato, celery, squash, and beef.
Our program concluded on January 16 with a visit to the Kennedy’s Center Millennium Stage for a unique performance by the DC based ensemble, Nomad Dancers, who seek to traverse several Eurasian and Asian cultures through dance. In an evening sponsored by the Embassy of Uzbekistan, attendees enjoyed beautiful Persian, Tajik, Uzbek, Indian and Turkish inspired folkloric dances, fusion choreographies, and traditional costumes. Not only was the cultural series enriching, but also provided a great stepping stone for our program’s focus on Eurasia in early 2015.