Bread: the local bread is generally flatbread called non
and is served with nearly every meal
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Manti/Samsa: steamed dumplings or pastry filled
with meat and/or vegetables
Plov/Palav: rice fried with meat, carrots, and
Qurutob/Qurotob: the national (vegetarian) dish
is cheese dissolved in water poured over bread then fried and topped with onions
Shashlyk: grilled mutton, pork, or chicken sometimes served
with raw onions, parsley, and/or a vinegar sauce
The Tajiks are very inviting people, especially in the
rural mountains, so it is not uncommon to be invited to a local's house. If
you do get an invitation, be sure to bring a gift; local sweets or, if you know
your host drinks alcohol, a bottle of vodka is a great gift. Once you arrive for
dinner remove your shoes and leave them at the door. Let you host show you a seat
at their short table and will lead the ceremonies, of which there may be many. The
first of these is often a cup of tea and perhaps an appetizer or soup course. In
some households though, a meal may begin with a glass of vodka and you are expected
to join in with the locals if they begin drinking.
Beyond the initial seating and drinking, dining etiquette is fairly relaxed and
rarely will a local be offended at your mistakes. Once the food is served, and there
may be multiple courses so don't overeat, you will likely find that the host
will serve everyone as certain cuts of meat are reserved for certain people. Unfortunately,
this means you must eat what you are served and as a guest of honor that could be
a sheep head. If dining at a restaurant with locals, remember to avoid ordering
pork products as most Tajik Muslims don't eat pork,
although it is often available.
You may find that there are utensils (cutlery) present; if so use them in any manner
you prefer, but ideally in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork
in the left), especially if in a formal business setting. On other occasions you
will be expected to eat with your hand though; be sure to only use your right hand
to eat. You'll likely also be served bread with your meal, which must be eaten
in its entirety and placed directly on the table when not eating it; again use your
right hand to eat your bread. When the food is finished, you will probably be served
tea again and be sure to join in on this local favorite to close the meal.
If dining out at a restaurant, check your bill to see if a "service charge"
has been added; it usually is in nicer restaurants. If not be sure to leave the
server a tip of about 10-15%.
Celebrations & Events
When it comes to celebrations in Tajikistan, the largest
festival is most certainly nauryz, which is a New Year festival that is
celebrated each year on the spring equinox. This event celebrates new life as the
historically nomadic people have survived the long winter. During this event the
people generally join together to celebrate by eating a number of traditional dishes
including lamb or sheep, mare's milk, and other traditional foods.
Tea is the most popular drink in Tajikistan and it is
difficult to go anywhere without seeing someone with a tea glass in hand. Both green
and black teas are popular, but sugar is never used with tea. If you want to try
out some more traditional drinks, try kefir, which is a yogurt drink or
sherbets, which in Tajikistan are sweet fruit drinks. Other available beverages
include juices, soft drinks, and coffee although none are as popular as tea.
Alcohol is not real commonly consumed in Tajikistan.
The people are primarily Muslim, a religion that outlaws alcohol, however due to
the people's long history under Soviet rule there is little taboo with drinking
alcohol today. Even for locals who don't drink they rarely take offense when
others drink. Beer and vodka are the most popular alcoholic drinks and are available
in most restaurants, bars, and shops. For other alcoholic drinks, including wine
and other hard liquors, you may have troubles finding what you want. You can generally
find anything in a shop, but at restaurants and bars these drinks are less common
as choices are somewhat limited.
The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Tajikistan,
but in some mountainous areas it might be safe. The most cautious course of action
is to entirely avoid the tap water and items that could be made from or with the
water, such as ice, fruits, and salads. If you do decide to drink the local tap
water first check with your local hotel or guesthouse to learn the cleanliness of
the water in that area. If the water is safe, remember that many people may have
trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different
from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.