chinor kebab - bukhara, uzbekistan
Rating: 8 / 10
By the second week even i'll admit, I was getting rather tired of the constant barrage of fatty meats. The culinary compass in central asia harbors few highlights for vegetarians or vegans, and being a part-time vegetarian myself I was not used to the constant onslaught of sacrificed livestock.
One redeeming factor was the culture that so heavily relies on cooking meats for it's citizens, also spends decades perfecting the art. Whether you like it or not, you will be treated to some delicious kebabs, and Chinor was one of the finest in Uzbekistan.
As was second nature to me, I asked my cab driver from the train station to the city centre about places to eat. He mentioned two. Chinor Kebab, and another kebab house (no, really) near the Chor Bakr complex. Since I had time on my hands, I made it to both, and suffice it to say, I was lucky with my advice. However, if I was to return only to one, then Chinor wins by a hair. As I paid my taxi-fare, the driver, in simple broken english, attempted to warn me that there were 3 places called Chinor in town, but that I had to find the right one. In a frenzied act of generosity he quickly scribbled a half-hazard map on the back of a store receipt, and I quickly photographed it as such pieces of paper have the habit of being misplaced.
Four waiters stood scratching their heads nervously as I tried to decifer the menu. One spoke a few sentences of English, and after much pointing and laughing, a meal had been ordered and a bottle of sparkling water broken into. As the glass filled with bubbles, so did my anticipation. I had arrived just after lunch time but every table in the absurdly large, multi-levelled restaurant, was heaving with people stuffing lamb and beef into their mouths mid-sentence. Women wailed as their babies took to tears, kids ran hiding behind fake walls as their parents anguished at the thought of responsibilities.
After the time it took for my order to reach the chef, and for the sticks of meat to be grilled to perfection on top of glowing coals, the plates arrived, noticing immediately that I had ordered far too much. Soup, mountains of bread and glowing pastures of slain animals created a morbid massacre of guilty pleasure.
The token plate of onions pickled with vinegar and some herbs sat offering a counter-weight to the fatty lumps of carnivorous death. I plucked a handful of bread, forked a slice of kebab off the stick, wrapped some onions around it and managed to expertly shove the entire thing in my mouth without choking to death. The flavours were exquisite. Amazingly tender, juicy meat, spiced and prepared by a bonafide god, layered in between crusty, fluffy bread and the wonderful bite of an acidic onion.
Time stood still, until the exanding waistline of my indulgences spread too far, and I panicked for a moment. Bills were paid, rapturous compliments arrowed to the chefs, tips left gladly, and out into the bright light of the Bukhara afternoon I rolled, snapping some photographs and stupid in my gluttonous glee.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
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"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"