By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
TASHKENT: The Pakistani delegation that arrived in Tashkent to observe the upcoming parliamentary and local govt elections, was given a warm welcome upon arrival at the Tashkent International Airport. A dedicated guide for each participant and a translator made things easier.
At the airport each one of us was handed over to a guide and translator. Upon seeing me Mr. Laziz and volunteer Durdona immediately rushed to me and escorted me to our hotel. It was my second trip to Uzbekistan however first with the Uzbek Air. It was an excellent experience of flying with Uzbek Air. It took us around two hours to reach Tashkent from Lahore.
The hosts wanted to offer me traditional Uzbek delicacy PILAF and therefore took me to the largest pilaf center in the Central Asia named Osh markaz. Upon inquiry, I was told that about 4,000 pilaf lovers visit the place every day.
Established almost 30 years ago this Pilaf center has now become a must visit place for especially the foreigners despite the fact that a large number of locals are also seen hovering over the place in order to get a seat as the place was so crowded and people even have to wait in queues for their turn.
The hallmark of the place is that the cooking process is done live and the visitors can see how the pilaf is made. There is huge Owens in which pilaf for thousands of people can be cooked. This restaurant had two big Owens and two medium sized Owens which means it can cater to needs of more than four thousand customers on daily basis. The restaurant located in the heart of the Capital, operates from 8 am till 10 pm.
Pilaf is prepared with rice and includes raisons; chick peas and meat. Uzbek Pilaf is usually made with beef, however Pilaf with lamb and horse meat is also equally popular. Pakistanis do not eat horse meat therefore we had to ask them to bring Pilaf without horse meat. If you do not tell them, then the dish is normally topped with a piece of horse meat. Horse meat can easily be identified because it looks different from lamb or beef. Horse meat is by and large of dark brown color with some traces of white color.
Friday afternoon Tashkent was jolted with earthquake, though not with acute intensity as was the case in Pakistan where an earthquake of 6.5 jolted many parts of Pakistan. There is no time difference between Pakistan and Uzbekistan therefore earthquake tremors were felt in both countries at the same time.
Coming back to Pilaf Center, Tashkent visit will remain incomplete without a visit of this center. It can easily be located as it is situation in juxtaposition of Central Asia’s tallest telecom tower.