A mountainous, landlocked country in Central Asia, Tajikistan is bordered by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China.
The narrow Wakhan Corridor also separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. This country’s ancient roots are grounded in the Sogdiana and Bactria civilization.
The majority ethnic group are the Persian speaking Tajiks, who share their beautiful language, culture and history with Afghanistan and Iran.
Once part of the Samarid Empire, the country became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union during the 20th Century.
In 1990, the country was beset by a bloody civil war that claimed more than 50,000 lives. Today, the country’s people have forged ahead to rebuild their lives, but the economy remains a fragile one.
According to The Lonely Planet, the country offers breath-taking scenic views. The capital city of Dshambe is considered one the world’s most beautiful, along with the city of Penjikent, which was a prominent stop along the Silk Road.
Food in this country is closely linked to Russian, Iranian, Afghan and Uzbek traditions. Plov, a layered rice dish and green tea are the country’s national dish and drink. Dairy, yogurt, Kaymak, and kefir are enjoyed in cooking and as breakfast and snack food. Grapes, melons, pomegranates, apricots, plums, peaches, apples, pears, figs and persimmons can all be found in the open air bazaars.
Meals are almost always served with non (Tajik: нон), a flatbread found throughout Central Asia that is truly the center of every meal amongst Tajiks. If a Tajik has food but not non, he will say he is out of food. If non is dropped on the ground, people will put it up on a high ledge for beggars or birds. Legend holds that one is not supposed to put non upside down because this will bring bad luck. The same holds true if anything is put on top of the non, unless it is another piece of non.
You can watch a great video on Tajiks baking non here
This recipe is exceptionally authentic and supremely delicious – I hope you will give it a try, Citizens! 🙂 It comes from an article in the May/June 1995 “Eating Well” by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Dugid about their book “Flatbreads & Flavors: A Bakers Atlas” (William Morrow & Co., 1995).
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 tb Salt
4 ts Finely chopped shallots
1 tb Active dry yeast
2 ts Cumin seeds
½ c Warm water
5 c Whole-wheat flour (up to 6)
2 c Lowfat plain yogurt
Dissolve yeast in the water in a large bowl.
In a saucepan or microwave oven, heat the yogurt until it feels warm on the inside of your wrist (about 105 degrees F) and stir it into the yeast mixture.
Stir in 3 cups of the flour, one cup at a time. Stir 100 times in the same direction to properly develop the gluten. Let stand 10 minutes.
Sprinkle salt over the dough and stir to mix well. Stir in additional flour until dough will take no more and cannot be stirred.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, incorporating any flour as necessary until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes (it will remain somewhat sticky).
Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in volume (about 1 ½ hours). Set an unglazed baking stone or lightly oiled baking sheet on the bottom over rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Gently punch down the dough and let rest for another 10 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly flour your palms and flatten each piece; set them aside, covered with a damp towel.
Roll out each bread, beginning by spreading ½ teaspoon of the shallots and ¼ teaspoon of the cumin in a 5-inch circle on the work surface. Take a piece of dough and set it on top of the shallots and cumin. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it about 8 inches in diameter. (If it sticks, lightly flour the surface)
Turn the rolled-out circle of dough over so the shallots and cumin are on top. With a fork, repeatedly prick the center of the circle, leaving an untouched rim about 3 inches wide.
This allows the bread to bake with a slightly higher outside ring, like a pizza crust. Roll out the remaining pieces of dough similarly. Depending on the size of your baking surface, bake 2 or 3 breads at one time. Use your hands or a flour-dusted pizza peel to carefully transfer the prepared dough to the heated baking surface.
Bake for only 2 ½ to 3 minutes — baked through but still quite soft. Remove from the oven and stack immediately and wrap in a clean towel. Makes 8 flatbreads.