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Kyrgyzstan Eats: A Dungan Feast in Naryn

Don’t judge Maria Muvazova’s cooking by the temperature in her unheated dining room. Because as soon as you try her spicy noodle laghman stew, you are spoiled; the glacial air merely a memory.

I’ve eaten a lot of laghman in Central Asia: some good, some boring. But during a recent laghman odyssey through highland Kyrgyzstan, none of this prepared me for Maria’s Dungan Kitchen in Naryn.

Bedecked with photoshopped posters of deserted and effervescent Chinese temples in a verdant spring, Muvazova’s restaurant offers two standard dishes to wash down with tea: cold ashlyam-fu and piping-hot laghman.

Laghman originated over the border in China, most Kyrgyz will admit, but has become a staple of the local diet. The vitamin-enhanced broth of onions, garlic, pickled red bell peppers, turnips, tomato paste and spices, fortified with beef or lamb (though elsewhere I have suspected other meats can be substituted), is poured over thick, yellow wheat noodles, much like the lo mein found in American Chinese restaurants.

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Kyrgyzstan Eats: A Dungan Feast in Naryn

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