Uzbek food is a delight if you’re coming from Iran but, like all of Central Asia, may be heavy on the mutton if you’ve flown in straight from Europe.
Vegetarians will struggle to find much to eat in restaurants but can seek solace in the well stocked farmers markets.
Humble cafes are plentiful in cities and along the road. They all tend to offer the same things including samsas, baked pastries filled with onions and meat, grilled kebabs known as shashlyk and laghman, a meat, vegetable and noodle stew. Plov, rice cooked with onions and sometimes raisins and chickpeas with meat on top, is another staple. You should also be able to get a salad and bread with your meal and you can wash it down with unlimited quantities of tea or beer.
A meal for two in a cafe with a couple beers runs between 6,000-10,000 Som, depending to a large extent on whether you’re in a tourist hotspot like Samarqand or somewhere more sedate. In bigger cities you’ll find cafes serving Korean food as well as Uzbek specialties.
Do-it-yourself chefs will want to stop in to the bazaars or farmers markets located in nearly every town of any size. Ask for directions to the bozori or just look for the stream of people heading towards the entrance. There you’ll always find bread, fresh produce, spices, dried goods like pasta and rice, nuts and a host of other goodies. Prepared salads of grated carrots, cabbage or glass noodles in a dressing are also common and very good.
It can be tricky to find a shop selling anything approaching a decent selection of food outside of main towns. Some shops we entered just had a few shelves of lukewarm drinks, others stocked noodles, tinned beef and a few candies but little else. Opening hours can also be erratic. It’s best to get what you need at the bazaar rather than waste your time trying to find provisions in villages.
When it comes to water, it pays to have a filter or other form or water treatment with you. Everyone we met was either filtering water in Uzbekistan or buying bottled water. You will not always find still mineral water to buy. Roadside stands in particular tend to carry only fizzy water.