Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More notes on Tatar Cuisine

Tatar cuisine is of particular interest because of the geographical location of Tatarstan, formerly part of the Soviet Union and now a semi-autonomous state within the Russian Federation. With its capital, Kazan, lying about 500 miles directly east of Moscow, it is the northernmost Muslim community.

The Kazan Tatars (so called to distinguish them from several smaller Tatar groups) prepare many familiar Near Eastern dishes such as pilafs and kebabs using cold-climate ingredients, beef or goose often replacing lamb and chicken. They are known for their substantial meat pies, including the large, rectangular belish, the small, round peremech, and the large, round gubadia. Peremech has a distinctive appearance; there is a little circular ‘window’ on the filling, around which the dough is neatly pleated. It is often served with a topping of thick onion soup and a spoonful of yoghurt.

The use of buckwheat, horseradish, and potatoes gives Tatar cuisine a quasi-Russian appearance, and Tatar samosas (sumsa) are made with a puffy dough, like the Russian pirozhki .

Tatars and Russians also subscribe to the same school of hospitality, centering around the samovar and large arrays of buttery pastries. Pekhlewe, the Tatar baklava, is not made with flaky strudel-type dough. It is simply seven or eight layers of noodle paste alternating with layers of sweetened nuts. Chekchek, a sweet consisting of pea-sized balls of fried dough bound into a flat loaf with honey, is also known in Uzbekistan and has affinities still farther east; the same dish is known in China under a Manchu name, saqima (sachima).

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