Nishallo

Instagram Post 6/7/2019

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On a recent ethnojunket through Brooklyn’s Little Odessa, we visited one of my favorite venues, Tashkent Market at 713 Brighton Beach Ave. One of my goals on these food tours is to introduce guests to tasty food they’ve never sampled before, but this item was new to me as well and like everything else in their extensive array of prepared foods, it was home-made. Needless to say, I was compelled to buy it, take it home, and research the heck out of it.

Nishallo (aka nisholda) is an exceedingly sweet dessert that’s native to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and prepared exclusively during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Made primarily from sugar, whipped egg whites, and water, it’s a dead-on ringer for Marshmallow Fluff (as you’d expect from the ingredients) if perhaps a bit classier because of a touch of star anise and/or licorice root. It makes its appearance as part of iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast. Frequently used as a dip for the flatbread naan, it’s particularly appropriate after 17 hours of abstention from eating because its high sugar content jumpstarts the metabolism.

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Rayhon

Instagram Post 5/8/2019

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The food of Uzbekistan is relatively easy to track down in Brooklyn; that of Tajikistan, its neighbor to the east, less so. The cuisines are similar, but Tajikistan claims kurutob (you may see qurutob or qurutov) as its own. We enjoyed a vegetarian version of it (also available with meat) at Rayhon, the Tajik-Uzbek restaurant at 1915 Avenue U in Brooklyn’s Homecrest.

[1] Essentially a bread salad (Tajikistan’s answer to Italy’s panzanella, perhaps), kurutob ascends beyond the level of granting second life to shards from a stale loaf in that it features fatir, the delicate, flaky, layered bread that provides the base for the herby (rayhon means basil) salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. Topping off the qurutob is its essential piquant sauce made from qurut (hence the name), a salty yogurt cheese, that gets soaked up by the fatir.

[2] The yogurty fatir gets its well-deserved moment in the spotlight, downstage.

[3] Crispy chuchvara (Russia’s answer to chuchvara are pelmeni, BTW), fried beef and lamb dumplings with an allium troika: caramelized onions provide sweetness, raw scallions for a little bite, and a few slivers of red onion just because. Not as redundant as you might think. But the dish as a whole was a little monotonous and could have been rescued by a bit of sauce on the side.