With the unpredictable and sudden nature of Covid this last year, a lot of people have had their lives disrupted and uprooted. Many have lost their jobs, and only a few have been given the opportunity to pivot. In comes new local, family-owned business. Small mom and pop shops operating out of their own kitchens homes for supplemental or sole income. I don’t know much about their legality or how they operate, so when Oshpaz serving out of Surrey approached me, I was happy to have them be my first such experience.
They promised an introduction to the “flavours and culture of Uzbekistan” through their cuisine. A nation and people I know nothing of, and certainly was curious enough to want to try. “ Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia. It is surrounded by five landlocked countries: Kazakhstan to the north; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Tajikistan to the southeast; Afghanistan to the south and Turkmenistan to the south-west.”, as taken from Wikipedia
Precovid, this small batch operation had its eyes on popping up at farmers markets, and introducing their unique food there, before going mobile in a food truck. This dream would eventually lead them to a brick and mortar restaurant, serving the authentic Uzbekistan cuisine and experience. However, with their plans stalled, they waited a year before coming to the to conclusion: why wait? So here they are currently, offering take and out and delivery options. And as this is their soft launch, and they are still working out logistics, and therefore their menu is limited. As such, the following is what we had.
Pick up was from the owner’s house. The food was packed up with utensils and spices. Although traditionally, the cuisine is enjoyed with hands, eaten with the entire family, sharing from one large platter, all on the floor. Having heard this and a few other traditional dining intricacies, we decided to replicate what we could.
As per said traditions we began with dessert to warm up our appetites. This is “medovik”, a popular Uzbek dessert made with walnuts and honey. Despite all the cream between thin layers of flakey crumble it wasn’t too sweet. I can see the honey helping to strike up the appetite. And this was a nice start to our meal
From there you transition to your main, accompanied by a dense loaf of bread coated with olive oil and plenty of salt, called “non”. It offered texture and tastes breaks from the rice and meat below.
The national dish of Uzbekistan is “plov” it is a rice dish made with carrots, chickpea, and garlic. With Oshpaz you get your choice of protein between chicken or beef. We had one of each for two people. Comparing the two, you get more meat with the chicken, four pieces of breast meat to ration amongst all the rice below; as opposed to the only two pieces of beef. Therefore it is no surprise that my critique includes more meat than rice, and for the meat to be less dry by way of a sauce or a spread. Although the heavily oiled rice did help as a lubricant, and when you are reheating it later, you only need to pour it all into a pan and fry. The rice is definitely the highlight, I appreciated all the garlic used and the even distribution of spices.
And last was Uzbekistan‘s most common salad. An undressed serving of cucumber, tomatoes, and onion, with salt and pepper to taste. The goal with this is to add some freshness and cleanse the palette from all the garlic above.
As a whole, this was comfort eating, familiar flavours done with slight variations to make it new to your mouth. A great new experience to add to my foodie repertoire, though a little inconvenient to travel to, from where I reside in (Burnaby to Surrey). Here is hoping that they gain popularity and can offer their food on delivery apps, after all where else can you find Uzbekistan cuisine in the Lower Mainland?