Uzbekistan’s fabulous flatbreads

tashkent naan 

Travel writer and photographer Eric Hansen has spent over 25 years documenting his travels through Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Nepal and Southeast Asia. Last year he visited Uzbekistan, and wrote a fascinating, in-depth article on the country’s fabled flatbreads in AramcoWorld magazine, accompanied by several beautiful photographs.

Uzbek flatbreads, called “non”, are similar to others of the region. The naturally leavened dough is shaped into rounds and baked in a wood-fired tandoor, from which is emerges crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and slightly smoky. The word “non” comes from Persian, where it is sometimes transliterated into the more familiar word “naan.”

Hansen follows a local baker, called a “nonvoy”, who specializes in a particular style of flatbread known as Tashkent. The small country has many different styles of non, including Buhkara, Urgench, Samarkand, and Kritiy. Each offers subtle differences in texture, flavor, and in the decorative style of bread. The article contains photographs of the various styles, which range from rustic to highly detailed and decorated. Tashkent-style is lighter, softer and chewier than other flatbreads of the region, and is at its peak for only a few hours after baking. Because Uzbeks prefer to eat their non hot out of the oven, most bakeries employ a fleet of delivery men who use bicycles to deliver the product to cafés, markets, and even private homes.

The article explores the history of Uzbek flatbreads, which can be traced as far back as 2700 BCE. Sharing bread has been part of the region’s hospitality traditions at least that long, and Uzbeks take the sacredness of bread seriously. Hansen provides an example of this reverence, noting tha t”when a piece of bread does fall to the ground, tradition calls for it to be picked up and placed on top of a wall or in the crook of a tree for the birds while saying “‘aysh Allah” (“God’s bread”).” Bread also plays a vital role in weddings, engagement parties, and other family events. 

Photo of Soft, fluffy Uzbek bread (Tashkent non) from Food52

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