Visit a Moscow market, or courtyard, or construction site, and it’s easy to forget you are in Russia’s largest city, not Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. Central Asian languages resound all over the Russian capital. But while the crowds of migrant workers trouble some Muscovites, the recent proliferation of Central Asian eateries – numbering over 239, according to one listing – seems to suit most just fine.
Amid these demographic and culinary changes, there has been one constant: plov. This hearty mix of rice, spices, carrots and meat has featured in Russian kitchens for generations. These days, the dish is generally identified as Uzbek, but that was not the case until official Soviet mythmakers made it so in the 1950s. After that, plov became the one Central Asian dish widely known in Russia; over the past two decades, it’s stayed put as a much broader array of the region’s cuisine has turned up, plied by everyone from kiosk food vendors to Russia’s most illustrious restaurateur.
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Text by David Trilling, EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor. Images by Moscow-based photographer Konstantin Salomatin.