Suitcase and World: Qurutob. The National Dish of Tajikistan.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Qurutob. The National Dish of Tajikistan.

For our only dinner meal in Tajikistan, Kai had promised to treat us to a uniquely Tajik dish - qurutob.  Kai described it as a special bread that is torn up and mixed into a yogurt sauce with some other ingredients.  It's served in a special wooden bowl and eaten with your fingers.  Sounded VERY intriguing.

Kai and Zarif were already waiting for us when Pat and I arrived back down at the hotel lobby.  We piled into the van and headed.  We got some glimpses of Dushanbe when we had arrived into the city less than an hour ago - it was still daylight then.  On the right to the restaurant, we got to see the nightlights of Dushanbe.  Even at night, you can tell it's a very modern and clean city.

Kai even gave us a bit of a sightseeing tour as we rode along.  Once a guide, always a guide :-)

We arrived into what felt like a local neighborhood.  It's Friday night and the streets were packed with cars and pedestrians heading out to enjoy the night.  It was difficult to find parking so Zarif dropped us off while he went to try and find a spot.

We followed Kai inside a restaurant.  There were a few bathroom sinks linking the wall of the entryway.  Although I was certain I wasn't going to be eating with my hands, it was a good idea to wash them any.....just in case I change my mind.

The first floor of the restaurant was filled with tables.  The place was packed and it was clearly noticeable that most of the diners were men.

We passed through a small courtyard and took the steps up to a second floor dining room.  On the perimeter of the room were the traditional Tajik dining tables - very low, large square shaped tables atop a platform bed type structure.  You sit, crosslegged, on cushions, on the floor.  These don't work well for Pat and her knees so we took seats at a more Western style table.

Looking around us, there were only two other women in the room.  I'm getting a sense that in this Muslim country, dining out may be the privilege of the men; women eat at home....except for the real *modern* women, typically the younger women, who are flaunting the Islamic traditions.

Kai ordered the meal. Pat and I decided to share a half portion of qurutob after Kai pointed out to us the massive bowl that is a full portion.  These folks are large eaters!

Looking around us, people were sharing communal bowls of qurutob.  Everyone was knuckle deep in the stuff, licking their fingers as they needed to and then dipping them back into grab another bite. The communal way Tajiks eat qurutob would give Americans a heart attack!

It was also apparent this was a place specializing in qurutob. Perhaps that's all they offer because I didn't really see plates of anything else being served.

Zarif and Kai chatting while waiting for our meal to arrive.

I guess it's not difficult to put together a dish of qurutob because I swear that no sooner had we placed our order than it had arrived!  Okay, we ordered a half portion.  A medium salad bowl got put in front of us.  We asked for forks.  Luckily, they had them!

There was all sorts of stuff in the bowl.  With our eyes, could identify the veggies, our teeth picked out the chewy and slightly crispy bits of bread and our taste buds got the salty yogurt.  There was some sort of a brown colored sauce drizzled over everything.  I have no idea what else there was - was there some meat?  Temperature wise, everything was at room temperature.

If you're curious about qurutob, I found this page with a recipe.  It's not exactly what we had but I think the bread and yogurt are two of the essential ingredients.

Two Tajiks thoroughly enjoying their meal of qurutob!

Final verdict on qurutob.  I will admit it, it's an acquired taste and I don't think I acquired it in the short time I was in Tajikistan.  But I am glad I got to try it and to do so in Tajikistan was truly memorable. Perhaps, if we can find a Tajik restaurant in NYC, I'll give it another try.   

After dinner, the guys dropped us back off at the hotel where we finished settling in and relaxing from the long day.  I shall leave you with this photo of me trying to reach up to the towel rack to grab a towel.  I know I am a bit height challenged but this was ridiculous!  I was all the way on my tippy toes and I could barely reach the bottom towel.  Gave Pat a good laugh when I asked for her help to get down a towel for me  The things I have do face to just take a shower!

Goodnight from Dushanbe!