Category Archives: Side Dish

Chaihana

With my all-encompassing love of Uzbek food, I try to find every opportunity to sample it.  But sometimes, I have to make these opportunities.  So, a while back, the folks and I drove to the Botanical Gardens in Chicago and for lunch/dinner went to the Uzbek restaurant not too far from there.  The restaurant is called Chaihana (19 West Dundee Road Buffalo Grove, IL; 847-215-5044) and is in a strip-mall next to Rogan Shoes. Don’t let the location fool you, it’s an oasis where your hunger for scrumptious food and delicious drink will be fulfilled.  There were several articles written about it, and this one is probably one of the better ones.

Chaihana

Chaihana

This was my second trip to this restaurant and I wish it were closer to where I live. Not that absolutely everything was always fantastic, but it’s pretty great. Of course it differs from how we make this kind of food at home and how it was made in Tashkent, but it’s pretty close given the limitations (the lamb species here is different from the lamb in Tashkent, so it’s missing the proper fat, and there are no tandyr (tandoori) ovens).

Chaihana interior

Chaihana interior

The decor is surprisingly  nice. I like that there are crisp, clean, white table cloths and napkins; I like the little fountain, the murals, and the suzaneh (pronounced: soo-za-neh with the accent on the last syllable in this case) hanging on the wall. My grandma has one that was made especially for her at her work as a sign of respect and appreciation. It was given to her at her retirement party.

Suzaneh

Suzaneh

Here is a close-up of the suzaneh.
Seeing it in this restaurant just reminded me so much more of where I came from, made it feel more authentic, and I’m sure made the food taste all that much better.  Though our waiter was not an Uzbek, we learned that the owners have lived in Andijon (a city in Uzbekistan) for many years.  And no, I don’t have a suzaneh hanging on my walls, nor does anyone else in my family. It’s stored in some dusty suitcase somewhere…

But back to the food….

Tea in Piala

Tea in Piala

First things first…. We ordered hot tea. Remember that it was the middle if winter and cold and there’s nothing better than a steaming cup of real black tea. By real I mean loose leaf, not in a tea bag. See, you can even see the leaf floating in the cup. Oh, and these cups are called piala or pialushka (pronounced: pee-a-loosh-ka, with the emphasis on the “loo” part; with pialushki being the plural). The tea was good, so totally hit the spot. Ahhhh, bliss… And it helped that it was served in the traditional tableware. We have that same set at home, it’s what helped fill our crates when we came here (and if you know where we can get more, please let me know!) and the atmosphere was therefore so much more comfortable and homier.

Salad

Salad

Then we ordered food. It felt like we ordered half the menu, but the portions were very generous and we had plenty to take home.
We ordered salad (“achichuk“), like the one we typically make at home. But we (I) typically leave the cucumbers off. It was pretty good, and I was surprised since it was the middle of winter and the tomatoes were pretty good. You know me and tomatoes…  If you search online for this restaurant you’ll see other reviews and sometimes incorrect descriptions.  This salad is not pickled as others claim, and you can see that from the picture.

Lepyoshka - Uzbek bread)

Lepyoshka - Uzbek bread

We also ordered bread. It’s called a lepyoshka (pronounced: le-pyo-shka), and should generally be made in a tandyr, but this was done in a regular oven. It was pretty good, but of course, not like what you’d get in Tashkent pretty much at any bazaar, even the little sidewalk ones. The open fire really adds quite a bit of flavor and puts it over the top. I really like the sesame seeds on it; just adds a really nice hint of nutty-ness and changes the flavor profile of the whole thing. These are made from scratch daily and are served warm. YUM!

This post is getting pretty long, and I haven’t even gotten to the main course. So please stay tuned to the next post.

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Asparagus

Asparagus

Asparagus

I didn’t grow up eating asparagus and it always looked a little scary in restaurants. You know the kind, an unnatural green, bizarely sagging, mushy spears. Yuck. Not knowing how to cook it, I’ve resisted it for a long time, but finally gave it a try. Turns out, I like it. A lot. I’ve roasted it a few times, but I was in an experimenting mood today. What you see is what I came up with.

Ingredients:
1 lb asparagus
1-3 tb of olive oil,
1-2 tb of anchovy paste
3-5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
a pinch of chipotle pepper (optional)

Steps:
1. Heat the minced garlic in the olive oil on low heat, until it’s fragrant.
2. Add the anchovy paste and try to dissolve it. It probably won’t dissolve completely at this point, and that’s OK. It will with the asparagus.
3. Add asparagus (and chipotle pepper, if using) and turn up the heat to high. Cook for a few minutes stirring all the time, until crisp-tender.

I served it with baked salmon. If you’re worried about tasting anchovies, don’t. All you taste is the smoky, velvety taste of something. Can’t quite put your finger on it, but definitely no fishy taste. And my choice of serving it with salmon was great. It worked out well.

I know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow. Who wouldn’t want this even as leftovers?!

Asparagus cooking

Asparagus cooking

Finished Asparagus

Finished Asparagus



Salmon and Asparagus

Salmon and Asparagus

Mung Bean

Mung bean and chicken

Mung bean and chicken

My dad tells me that we ate this on occasion when my grandfather would make a dish featuring this bean. It took ages for me to remember what my dad was referring to. In Uzbek cooking, this bean is called “mash” and my dad was referring to a dish called “mash-kichiri”. I can’t believe I forgot about this little gem. Apparently, this bean is extremely healthy in many ways. I wasn’t able to find it at my local grocery store, but did find it in bulk at the healthy/organic food store (Outpost, for those in my neck of the woods). Also, I bet Indian food stores would have it since it’s popular in Indian cuisine and is known as dal or dahl.
Since I don’t really have any recipes for what to do with this bean, I decided to improvise. Here is what I came up with.

Ingredients:
2 large Carrots
1 large Onion
1 cup uncooked Rice (I used brown rice)
Chicken stock
1 cup uncooked Mung beans (I soaked the beans overnight and the 1 cup uncooked looked more like 2-3 cups)
Spices (to taste): salt, pepper, cumin

Soaked Mung Beans

Soaked Mung Beans

Carrots and Onions

Carrots and Onions

Cooking Mung Bean

Cooking Mung Bean

Mung bean and Rice

Mung bean and Rice

Steps:
1. Dice the carrots and onions. Cook rice according to package directions, stopping about half way through.
2. Sautee the carrots and onions on a low heat for a few minutes until a little tender. Season to taste.
3. Add the beans and rice and chicken stock. Just enough chicken stock to continue cooking the rice.
4. Cover the pan and let cook over a low heat until all the liquid is gone, about 20 minutes.

I served this with the Updated Roasted Chicken.

Nora’s Salad

Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Salad

Nora and I got together and cooked again today. And boy did we cook! We made shurpa (a lamb soup), damlyama (a lamb and vegetable dish) and a new salad. Since I don’t know the name for that salad and since she introduced us to it, I’ll just call this “Nora’s Salad”. She said that she’s been making it for ages. It’s absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:
2-3 eggplants (cut up like fries)
4 tomatoes thinly sliced (we used Roma tomatoes)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced in half moons and soaked in a water/vinegar solution)
1/2 cup total of dill and flat leaf (Italian) parsley finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely minced
Salt to taste
Oil for frying (or if you have a deep fryer, that would work too)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of vinegar

Finished Salad

Finished Salad

Steps:
1. Cut the onion into half moons and soak in a water/vinegar solution for at least a half hour. If you have more time, that would be fine too. Use about 1/4 cup of vinegar about as much water.
2. Cut up the eggplant like you would potatoes for french fries. Soak the eggplant in water for at least a half hour. More would work fine too. Soaking removes the bitterness. Remove as many seeds as possible, but if there are some left, that’s fine.
3. Fry the eggplant in oil in batches and layer the salad as follows:

  • Eggplant
  • Minced garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Greens (dill/parsley mixture)
  • Repeat.
Salad Layers

Salad Layers

Eggplant Soaking

Eggplant Soaking

Eggplant Frying

Eggplant Frying

Vegetable Saute

I love this saute.  It’s easy to make and absolutely lip-smacking delicious.  Most people would eat this as a spread on a piece of lightly toasted bread, and that’s how I grew up eating.  However, now I can’t be bothered with making toast just for this, so I eat it straight-up.  This is also a great side dish or a cold salad.  It’s actually intended to be eaten cold or at room temperature.

Carrots, Eggplant, Onion, Garlic

Carrots, Eggplant, Onion, Garlic

Ingredients:
1 eggplant
3 carrots (medium)
1 onion (large)
4 cloves of garlic (finely minced)
olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper.

 

 
Steps:
1. Peel and dice the egg plant. Set the eggplant into a colander and salt it heavily so the liquid can drain out of the eggplant. Let sit in the colander for about a half hour. After draining, wash the eggplant thoroughly to get rid of the salt.  Look at the picture below to see how much liquid was drained.  You don’t want that in the pan because it will make everything soggy.
2. Dice the onion and carrots.
3. Heat a bit of oil in a skillet and start sauteing the veggies (you can add them all the same time). If you see things are starting to stick, add a touch more oil. Eggplant is like a sponge in that respect, it soaks up the oil.
4. Add garlic when the veggies are a getting a little soft. Salt and pepper.
It’s done when the carrots are soft, which would take about a half hour on low-medium heat.

Size to cut the carrots

Size to cut the carrots

Liquid draining from eggplant

Liquid from eggplant

Eggplant cut up

Eggplant cut up

Veggies in the pan

Veggies in the pan

Oven “Fries” / Steak Fries / Baked Potatoes

In the last few years I have developed a real appreciation for the potato.  I never liked it when I was growing up, but I think it’s because it was mainly found in soups, all mushy and in various states of disintegration; or it was pan fried.  Turns out I don’t really like the greasy texture of the fried potato, all crunchy on the outside and mealy on the inside.

But I started experimenting with a few varieties and a few recipes.  Here is an easy, quick, and healthy alternative to fries.

Ingredients:
1 lb of Yukon Gold potatoes
1 bottle of your favorite steak seasoning (I use McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning)
1 TB of olive oil
1 Gallon plastic bag

Steps:
1. Peal the potatoes.
2. Cut into wedges of roughly equal size, so they cook evenly.
3. Place potatoes into the plastic bag with the olive oil. Shake the potatoes to coat with the oil.
4. Place the oiled potatoes on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the steak seasoning to taste.
5. Place into a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they’re done.

Golden delisiousness

Golden delisiousness