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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