Uzbek bread

Bread – is all around the head. It was, it is and always will be in such a pace.

There is a great deal of bread’s varieties, types and forms, depending on the nationality, location and religion of a man who bakes it. Therefore, as we are in Uzbekistan now, it's time to pay tribute to the unique Uzbek bread – “Issik non”or a hot pastil.

Anyone, who has ever tasted Uzbek hot pastil, will stay in love forever with this miracle with a crisp, divinely supple, odorous flesh and crumbs of sesame, exploding on the teeth with a unique flavor. Moreover, in case when it has just begun dawning in the street and you hold a pialat of a hot odoriferous tea in your hands, there is also a dish of the freshest clotted cream ( a kind of dense cream) on the table,  nothing will not be able to divert you from such unbelievable delicious, remarkably nutritious and the most proper breakfast in the whole world (the author’s opinion).

So, what is a "non issik" and what is its originality and uniqueness.

To begin with the fact, that the secret of cooking pastils came to us from immemorial times, fortunately, absolutely without being changed and modernized. At least, for example - a shape. Since ancient times, cakes were cooked of a round shape and it had a hidden meaning. Circular disk symbolized the sun, because without bread, as well as without  sun there is no life on the earth. Furthermore, regarding everyday usage, a circular shape is extremely convenient, as the pastil was a kind of dish which various viands were placed on, such practice continues up to nowadays. There is one another ancient tradition: only men work in bakeries. However, that doesn’t mean at all that women can’t bake, but cooking bread for sale is a real toil. So many kilograms of dough need to be kneaded, in addition, work near an extremely hot tandoor is not for women at all.

Tandoor being a vertical or horizontal ceramic oven is another tradition and an integral part of "Issik non" baking. It is fast to heat and slowly to cool down. It is accepted that the best fuel for the tandoor is Yantacaw (camel thorn) or dry cotton stalks. Once the fuel is burned up, coals are raked up in the middle, the walls are sprayed with a salty water to avoid wet cakes to stick and start putting them to the oven. To do this, a big mitten (engicha) is put on hand, then by Rapid (special cushion) attach pastils to the walls of tandoor, then sprinkle again with water to form steam. Actually, thanks to steam and heat accumulated in the oven, bread rises and becomes ready. After about 5-8 minutes, as soon as crisp formed, the product is ready and should be taken out. Pastils are removed also by hands, wearing thick mittens and helping with a slotted spoon, sometimes being waist-deep into a sizzling hot tandoor. Sometimes it happens that the pastil falls down to the ash. But instead of grief that occasion brings a great joy, as this cake is considered to become sacred, because it "bowed to Allah."

The most common types of pastils in Uzbekistan are “obi-non” and “patir” dough for which is prepared by the same old technology. Dough for the obi-non is very simple and its secret lies only in the sourdough for it. Here is how an ancient recipe prepares. Finely chopped onion is added to the strong meat broth, mixed with sour milk which is soured in the special way (it calls catic), the flour is added and the mass is left for 16 hours for fermentation. Then the sourdough again diluted with water, mixed with flour and then left to ferment for 4-6 hours. Prepared fold on the leaven the dough before molding is left for a forming the last condition for 40 minutes again. After this, portions of dough are rolled into balls, and then after the procedure hand-made pastils are flatten out, and finally the middle is pricked by the special instrument called “chekich”, the raw pastil is sprinkled with cumin and sesame seeds, the last step is baking.

Dough for patir is rich it is fermented by yeast with adding of lamb fat or butter, so the pastils become more lush and stays fresh for a long time periods.

Since ancient times, leaven for the dough was considered sacred. There was special absolutely clean place in the bakery was given for it , and nobody had the right to not only to step over it, but just to sit with outstretched feet toward it. Very often classify ancient masters classified all the secrets of their sourdough and recipes passed on only to their disciples by word of mouth.

Except obi-non and patir there are several dozen species of pastils are baked in Uzbekistan, and each region is proud of its bread. So in Ferghana Valley there are some special "branded" pastils like: layered katlama, zhizzali-non - pastil with cracklings, zogora non-mixed with corn flour, kuk patir made of herbal infusions sourdough. Bukhara is renowned for fatyr; chorech is in Khiva, but the most famous Uzbek bread, is considered to Samarkand - the gala-osiyogi-non. Making this amazing pastil made famous the baker masters from the village of Gla-Osiyo, which is close to Samarkand. So far, there were more than 15 different ways of making sourdough persist for it, on the basis of fermented cream or milk whey, with the addition of finely chopped onion and sesame oil. But even knowing the exact recipe no one, no where and never could repeat its unique taste. Perhaps the masters withheld of some secret ingredient, or perhaps the story of the legend is right which says: "During the ancient times, having been once in Samarkand and tasted there the pastils, the Emir of Bukhara desired to have these every day on his dastarkhan (table). He ordered to bring in the best Samarkand baker to blessed Bukhara. His order was done; the master has arrived, taking Samarkand flour, tandoor and the best recipe for pastils with him. The master prepared the dishes, but Emir was not pleasant. The master thought a while and sent to bring water from Samarkand. Again the master brought the pastil to the king court, and again that was not the right taste. Emir was furious and ordered to execute the master. At the last moment before the execution, the governor asked the master once again what baker concealed and why pastil failed. "So that is just because there is no air of Samarkand" - replied the master and that was the way how he cheered the Emir. The master was pardoned and released home”.

Of course the matter was not in the air but Samarkand pastil is really special. It is distinguished by its size, design, pomp, and weight, and one more fact is that correct Samarkand pastil is edible within 3 years. Even being completely dried it can be properly sprinkled with water, heated in tandoor (oven, microwave oven) and it will again be very fresh. There are kinds of pastils which are long-livers, they are intricately prepared in such beautiful and interesting way that houses are decorated by them or they are presented to friends as souvenirs. But to purchase then the minimum requirement you should do is to visit the ancient city of Samarkand.

Respectful attitude to bread is in blood of Uzbeks. And that is not surprising phenomenon as every meal or feast begins with the ritual of the passing out bread. Presenting old man takes the pastils and crumbling gives it to all people around. Pastils never should be cut with a knife or laying face down – it is disrespectful to bread. Any serious business begins with the ceremony of pastil breaking. Every traveler, going on the road, bites off a piece of pastil which is left at home and waiting for his or her coming back. There is nothing can be worse than break of an oath, which was pronounced on the pastil. And the ritual of lying the basket of pastils on the head, which is so rare could be seen now – is nothing but admiration for the work as farmers, millers, bakers, and all those who gave us this great miracle.