When in a faraway land, I am not like other tourists. While most would rush straight to the sites, I would seek out food FIRST. Food that I would not normally find in my hometown. A gastronomic delight that would mark my trip as unforgettable.

That objective always figures on top of my travel agenda. And while in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, I did exactly that.

The challenge of just relying to the sense of sight and smell was quite daunting. I am constantly reminded by threat of possible food poisoning. Most of my colleagues have warned me about that. While being mindful of the hazards of street or eatery food, I went on my journey.

With my point-point (turo-turo)  and meager sign language skills in tow, I was off to the road to discovery...

As I browsed the web for food to look for in Tajikistan, they spoke highly of the bread. Tajik Non, as they would call it, is a flatbread common around Central Asia Region. In Dushanbe, it was not hard to find. It is sold practically everywhere. On the streets, in the supermarket, in local bakeries, you would not miss it. Round bread in all sizes. I bought these for 1 TJS each. Now how do I finish it all? This spreadable cream cheese with mushroom helped me tremendously in the gargantuan task.

This bread is a staple in every Tajik table. May it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks included.


Tajik Non and Cream Cheese with Mushrooms

During my first days in Dushanbe, all I wanted to do was sleep. Rest was my priority, after almost 24 hours of travel. But of course, I had to eat in between. I needed a quick meal to satisfy my pangs of hunger. I passed by a mini-grocery, and it had a bakery section. It offered various kinds of pastries, both savory and sweet. This meat pie caught my attention.


Tajik Meat Pie

My English could not get me far, but I drew close to it and started sniffing. Don't worry I looked around, and made sure no one was looking. I smelled the freshly baked off the oven aroma. And the scent of beef, onion, a bit of cumin and coriander seed, I got one almost immediately. When the cashier rang it up, I was asked to pay 3 TJS (Tajik Somonis) ... That's how much in pesos? PhP18, you guys. I could not believe my luck!


Tajik Meat Pie Dissected

I bit into it, and I had a eureka moment! My nose did not fail me!

Think siopao, but in puff pastry. Inside it had sukiyaki cut beef mixed with onions, peppers. And get this, local stringy cheese.. What more could I ask for?

Maybe rice?

The next day, it was time for a rice meal. I took a short walk from my hotel, and randomly entered one of the eateries nearby. I entered a dark hall with three tables occupied. In a restaurant counter that reminded me of my high school days, I blindly pointed at my meal of choice. Not even knowing what it was. Until my first bite.

I ended up choosing a giant beef kofta, that tasted a bit like salisbury steak. It had a light gravy on it. On the side, I chose basmati rice garnished with corn kernels. I added a dill cucumber salad to give the meal a dash of freshness. I paid 18 TJS for this. Less than PhP100 for a simple yet tasty meal. #busoglusog

So much for watching what you eat. When you can't express yourself well enough, to call out what you want to order, it's a hit or a miss. And so far, all hits!


Kofta with Basmati Rice and Dill Cucumber Side Salad

One evening, it just felt like a shawarma night. And of course, the sun sets way later here during the summer. It was dinnertime but the sun was still out. Thankfully the broad daylight helped me weed through an alley of food joints lined up one after another. At the first sight of a shawarma machine, I was sold. I pointed to the server yet again, and mouthed "I want that." Lucky me, she knew a little English.

She signalled with her fingers, 1? Or 2?

I told myself, do I look THAT hungry? 

So I signalled back, just 1.

Within minutes, this came to my table. I guess at Subway, this would qualify as a footlong. Looked unimpressive on the outside.


But on the inside...


Wow. I downed this wrap to its very last bit. All of TJS8 of it. That's less than PhP50 for you.

These have been my first Value Tipid Kurips Meals in Tajikistan. I will make sure there will be more.

And that is a promise.


P.S. This article originally appears in my personal blog, Chowpowwows, where chow is always on the lowdown. 

Published by Michelle Africa