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Uzbekistan Eating Etiquette 101 | Food Safety, Alcohol & Rules in Uzbekistan

  Category: Useful info

Uzbekistan food culture. Uzbek traditional food, eating rules etiquette, eating facts & taboos, Uzbekistan drinking traditions, vodka & alcohol drinking in Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan food security, Uzbek bread & tea ceremonies, and other facts about food and eating in Uzbekistan.

Visiting Uzbekistan or any other country requires some basic knowledge about the country in order to truly discover the destination and for understanding it. As a little-known country, Uzbekistan’s Food and Eating Etiquette can be somehow different from the traditional Food Rules of other places. Below you are going to find some most popular “rules & traditions of eating culture in Uzbekistan”:

What to eat in Uzbekistan?

Compared to its neighbors, Uzbek food is the most varied and colorful in Central Asia. Being located on the crossroads of the Silk Road, the food of Uzbekistan has been strongly influenced by traditional meals of various countries. Unlike Chinese or Indian food, Uzbek cuisine is never too spicy but moderate use of the spices make it very flavorful.


Washing hands before each meal

One of the main eating traditions of Uzbekistan requires washing hands each time when we sit for eating. Especially, the travelers who will be visiting the small villages of Uzbekistan-off-beaten-tracks need to pay more attention to it as the people in these places are the most traditionalist people. This simple thing has been accepted as one of the golden rules of Food Safety in Uzbekistan and all Central Asia.


Bread is sacred

The bread is sacred in Uzbek culture and it is the king of Uzbekistan's food. Traditionally, people never put the bread upside down. When the Uzbeks sit at a table the youngest person breaks the bread and distributes it to the others. As the main element of the Uzbek table, the bread is served always and with every kind of food.

Bread is not only a part of Uzbek cuisine, but it is also a very essential part of Uzbek culture. When a child is born, the first thing the baby smells is fresh non-bread; before marriages, the engagement is confirmed by the father of the bride by breaking bread; bread is the most traditional gift to bring when Uzbek visit someone, etc. Once you’re in Uzbekistan, make sure to taste the Patir bread (baked by adding milk & butter), Qatlama bread (layered), Gosht non (with meat), and bread with onion & tomatoes.


Eating Taboos in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan used to be under the Russian and Soviet Regimes for over a century and people can eat any kind of meat and alcohol in restaurants. Anyway, the consumption of pork, alcohol, etc. is rather limited. Some of the small teahouses may not have alcohol and the pork can be found only in bigger European restaurants which offer some international type cuisine.


Dessert is served at the beginning of the food

According to local food & eating customs, the Uzbeks eat sweats mainly during breakfast and the rest of the day it is very slightly consumed. Though in local festivities and ceremonies the desserts play quite an important role and they are one of the food items used for setting/decorating the table. Due to that, the sweets may be put on the at the beginning of the party together with the salads. So, if you are going to eat with an Uzbek family, don’t be surprised by seeing the desserts at the beginning of your meal!


Be ready for the absence of dessert in traditional teahouses

Be ready to the fact that small restaurants in Uzbekistan may not have any kind of desserts except some fruits during the fruit season. A delicate eating etiquette in Uzbekistan says that "dessert should be served only to women". Due to that reason, during local Uzbek festivities mainly women are served desserts and for men, it's not common.


Vodka is Russian Heritage in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan used to live under Russian and Soviet Regulations for more than 100 years and people drink alcohol. In the country, beer is accepted as a soft drink and it is easiest to find in shops, cafes, and restaurants. Vodka is probably the most popular strong alcohol and is accepted as the main alcohol for men while wine (especially sweet sorts) is considered to be the drink of festivities for women.

  • Most popular Uzbek beer: Sarbast
  • Most popular Uzbek wine: Bagizagan

Toast Time. Wait for your turn

There is almost no Uzbek festivity without alcohol drinking and the alcohol is always accompanied by a toast. Normally, every guest will be asked to revive the party with an interesting toast and it is wise to wait for one’s turn.


Less tea in the cup means more respect

Similar to bread, tea is another top cultural element of Uzbek food. Tea is so much important in Uzbekistan’s culture and there are lots of traditions and some ceremonies which are related to tea. One of them says that the cup of the guest should not be filled with tea as a sign of respect. It means that if you are served just a little tea, you are accepted as an honored guest in the family. Note: in the Northern regions of the country you will find the opposite of it!


Never Refuse…

Never refuse tea and bread when you are invited by the Uzbeks. When the Uzbeks invite you to their table or to their home you can always accept to taste their bread or to sip a cup of tea with them which is a sign of respect.


Furthest means – most honored…

The seat furthest from the entrance is reserved for the most honored guests. Mainly the most respected guest for the Uzbeks is the oldest person. It means that the seat of the youngest guests is closest to the entrance.


Leaving tips in an Uzbek Restaurant?

Most restaurants and teahouses in Uzbekistan add a service charge (tips) to their bill and normally you are not expected to leave tips. Only, when you are very satisfied with the food or service of the restaurant you may leave some tips (8-15%) which shows your gratitude.


No knife at a traditional Uzbek restaurant

Apart from big restaurants, you will not see knives on tables in smaller cafes and teahouses. People used to eat mostly with their hands and due to that, the knife has not been widely used by restaurant owners. Note: you can always ask for a knife which will be accepted by the restaurant with no problem.


What is considered rude in Uzbekistan?

Make sure that you know what is a cup for drinking tea and a bowl for food. Tea is a very cultural item element of the Uzbek table and putting your food inside the teacup can be shocking for the locals. Besides, there are the smallest cups reserved for drinking vodka.


Uzbekistan vegetarian food

If you are in a tourist area, you will certainly find vegetarian food in Uzbekistan. if you want to go off-classical tourist routes, vegetarian food is available only for open-minded adventurers and you can find something to eat in local bazaars or grocery shops. Besides, most of the Uzbek restaurants and teahouses are quite flexible and they can prepare you some Vegan food. Note: if you book an organized tour in Uzbekistan, you should inform your preference of food to your local agent/tour guide and you will be saved.

If you are in a tourist area, you will certainly find vegetarian food in Uzbekistan. if you want to go off-classical tourist routes, vegetarian food is available only for open-minded adventurers and you can find something to eat in local bazaars or grocery shops. Besides, most of the Uzbek restaurants and teahouses are quite flexible and they can prepare you some Vegan food. Note: if you book an organized tour in Uzbekistan, you should inform your preference of food to your local agent/tour guide and you will be saved.

Read more:

Uzbekistan Tourism Facts 1001

Top-rated Places to Visit in Uzbekistan

 

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