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24 June 2014 / leggypeggy

A wonderful find on the streets of old Tashkent

rows of bread, Tashkent

Two-thirds of the oven loaded with bread

There’s nothing better than fresh bread, but when you get something like this—it’s better than better.

Poor John was talking about a small loaf of bread given to us by a woman who was baking hundreds of loaves every hour in a small bakery on the back streets of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

final shaping of dough

The dough gets a final tweak before going in the oven

We’ve had lots of fabulous bread as we’ve travelled through Central Asia, but this loaf was somehow more fabulous than all the others.

It was pure luck that we found it. We were walking along the streets of old Tashkent behind the Friday mosque—the area isn’t really that old because much of the city was flatten in an earthquake in 1966.

hard at work in the bakery, Uzbekistan

Bakery work is constant

As we passed a boy selling bread, I said, that bread smells incredible. But we walked on. Cripes, we’d finished breakfast only an hour earlier.

Then Poor John spied the doorway of what he thought was a small restaurant. Oops, still too early for more food. But as we passed by the window of the ‘restaurant’, I caught a glimpse of the bread oven and a whiff of the baking bread.

Time to double-back. I ventured into the ‘restaurant’. Hello, I said. A plump woman kneading bread flashed a broad smile and replied good-bye in English, and then caught herself. No, no, I mean hello. Come in. Please come in.

This was bread heaven—four 50-kilo bags of flour, scores of dough balls already waiting to be oiled, kneaded and punched into loaves AND that bread oven! It was about the size of a largish walk-in closet and powered by gas, and the woman’s assistant was loading it with up to 100 loaves of bread at a time.

Uzbek dough ready to go

Plenty of dough ready to go

kneading Uzbek bread

Giving the dough a last knead

We watched a demonstration of the whole process and I even got to punch a couple of loaves with the nail-studded tool used to imprint the middle of each loaf. Psst! I bought a couple of those tools in Khiva and can’t wait to try them out at home.

baking bread, Uzbekistan

Almost done

baked bread, Uzbekistan

Coming out of the oven

We stood, watched and listened for probably 15 minutes—seeing dough slapped against the oven wall and then, later, being lifted off and stacked on a wooden tray for the young boy (remember the one I saw earlier) to collect loaves for his next sales expedition.

As we said our thank yous and good-byes, the woman slapped her forehead with the heel of her hand and slipped into Russian or Uzbek. I can’t confirm what she said, but it must have been along the lines of—Good grief! Where are my manners? After all this, you must have a loaf to eat. Here, take this one. And she popped it into a small plastic bag and thanked US profusely for OUR visit.

We, in turn, thanked her profusely for such an amazing experience.

Poor John and I continued on our walk and took about 10 minutes to polish off the entire loaf. I will remember the taste forever, and will try to duplicate at home. Just in case, I bought a book of Uzbek cuisine with a large collection of bread recipes. If I crack a good recipe, I’ll share it here.

And if you love bread, please try out my page-32 recipe for Middle Eastern bread. It’s darn good, but nowhere near as good as the bread we ate today.

bakery, tashkent, Uzbekistan

Baking hundreds of loaves a day in this small space

 

 

20 Comments

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  1. Beth Gerrish Renzetti / Jun 24 2014 5:02 am

    oh my goodness!!! what an experience! HOW are those loaves staying up there?

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2014 12:41 pm

      The fellow just slaps them on the side of the oven—and there they stay. Amazing!

      Like

  2. suchled / Jun 24 2014 9:28 am

    I just love stories of ordinary people just working in simple ways. We (the totally civilized advanced nations) have lost so much. Every small town should have its small oven run by good old country folk.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2014 11:55 am

      I agree completely. I would love having a neighbourhood, outdoor oven. Maybe I should get Poor John to build one.

      Like

  3. Debbwl / Jun 24 2014 9:43 am

    Mmmm now that would be a great morning to see how the bread is made and then getting to eat it warm. Old world ways just feel so right!

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2014 11:56 am

      We’ve seen a lot of bread being made, but was truly a memorable experience. We feel blessed.

      Like

  4. Sy S. / Jun 24 2014 11:13 am

    Hello LeggyPeggy,

    Wow x Wow = So so good! I can almost smell the bread and eating it warm as you say got to be such a wonderful treat! It is so much fun to explore and discover new off the beaten path places and finding this very interesting bakery is no exception. And the great thing is that the people are so nice and appreciate foreign visitors…. When I traveled from Turkey to Iran, I just loved the breads, sour pickles/vegetables, kobabs, yogurts….. I can’t wait to see you pick out a few recipes from the cook book you bought and posting on “cooking on P. 32” and/ or a recipe or two on Food dot com.

    Sy.S

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2014 12:00 pm

      I can still smell the bread too, and taste the tang of some pickles. I look forward to experimenting in the kitchen when I get home, and I promise to share if I have any real luck.

      Like

  5. Joanne T Ferguson / Jun 24 2014 11:55 am

    G’day I love stories behind foods as you know Peggy! What a bread treasure trove you and Poor John stumbled into! Look forward to what you create! Cheers! Joanne

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2014 12:00 pm

      Thanks Joanne. I look forward to dabbling in the kitchen. Stay tuned.

      Like

  6. Kenny2dogs / Jun 24 2014 8:08 pm

    Bread,wine and a beautiful Woman…..” what a party ” 😉

    Like

  7. Jolandi Steven / Jun 24 2014 9:01 pm

    I am such a sucker for bread. This looks absolutely delicious. I hope you and John are having a wonderful time.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jun 24 2014 11:50 pm

      I’m a sucker for bread too. This is a wonderful version, and yes we are having a wonderful time.

      Like

  8. lmo58 / Jul 1 2014 4:05 pm

    Peggy, that oven looks amazing! All those loaves of bread sitting on its sides colouring up so beautifully and baking bread also smells so amazing. And no, you bought a cookbook? I don’t believe you!

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Jul 1 2014 8:28 pm

      The bread was sensational and yes, I confess, I bought a cookbook, but only one. 🙂

      Like

  9. GalavantingGran / Feb 26 2015 11:40 pm

    This post brings back memories of all that lovely bread from Kashgar to Armenia. All similar but different. I saw women making flat bread on sides of pit oven outside Yerevan. Not sure how bread stayed on side of oven but it did. The bakers moved the dough so quickly and deftly. Fascinating.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2015 3:37 am

      I agree, it’s fascinating. And it’s amazing how the bread clings upside down to those pit ovens.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. fitnessgrad / Aug 24 2016 2:52 am

    This is very fascinating! they look so good 😀

    Shay-lon

    Liked by 1 person

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