Monday, January 23, 2006

Bukharin Food in Queens, NY

I think this looks and sounds delicious -- but then I love Central Asian food. I used to have some delicious recipes, mostly of kinds of meat dumplings. (Well I still do, I just haven't made them for a while. I don't cook the complicated stuff as much as I used to.)

It definitely merits a trip to Queens sometime soon.

The Bukharians established a thriving commercial strip along 108th Street in Rego Park, now called Bukharian Broadway, and opened several kosher restaurants that serve their traditional cooking, based on charcoal, lamb, rice, beets, potatoes, carrots and spices like cumin, paprika and chili.

Reflecting the influence of silk and spice trades, there are tastes of China and India everywhere. Every Bukharian menu offers a garlicky, chili-spiked Korean carrot salad, morkovcha koreyska, that is a legacy of Stalin's mass deportations of ethnic Koreans from the far eastern Soviet Union to its western frontiers. At Tandoori Bukharian Bakery in Rego Park, a samsa - one of Asia's many cousins of the Indian samosa - is deliciously spiked with cumin and baked against the walls of a clay-lined oven that Bukharians, like Indians, call a tandoor.

It is all a long way from bagels and lox.

Neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi (the two major groups of Diaspora Jews), the Bukharians say that their lineage goes directly back to the Babylonian captivity, before 500 B.C. "Our people are the ones who did not return to Jerusalem afterward, but remained in Asia," said Peter Pinkhasov, a paralegal at a Manhattan law firm who immigrated with his family from Tashkent in 1993.

The Bukharians' Jewish identity was always preserved in the kitchen. "Even though we were in exile from Jerusalem, we observed kashruth," said Isak Masturov, another owner of Cheburechnaya. "We could not go to restaurants, so we had to learn to cook for our own community. My great-grandmother, Sarah Masturov, said that every woman should know how to cook for at least 500 people."

Anyone out there tried the food in this neighborhood that cares to comment?


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