Uzbek Noodle Soup - Lagman

Lagman is an Uzbek dish that is quite similar to Asian noodle soups.  It was possibly brought to Uzbekistan by the Dungans, or Chinese Muslims that settled in the area.  It's popular throughout Central Asia.  When I lived in Moscow, I had a friend that had grown up in Tashkent.  She used to make lagman for us sometimes, and it was one of the tastiest soups I had tried there.  Her recipe was simpler (I don't remember the eggplant in her version), but the basic flavors are about the same.  I would imagine, though, that recipes would vary by region or even family.

This particular recipe is adapted from Anya Von Bremzen's Please to the Table.

You will need:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder or beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick strips or cubed
  • 1 eggplant, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup diced daikon (I didn't have that, so I omitted it)
  • 3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium green chilies
  • 2 medium boiling potatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 to 6 cups lamb or beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • medium handful cilantro, chopped
  • small handful parsley, chopped
  • homemade noodles 1 box fettuccine noodles (who has time to make homemade noodles??) 

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.  Add the meat (in multiple batches, if necessary - the meat will not brown nicely if it's crowded together) and brown well on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots and eggplant to the Dutch oven (in the same oil that the meat browned in), and brown, stirring for 7 to 8 minutes.

Isn't that pretty?  The original recipe said to peel the eggplant, but I forgot to.  I think this actually makes it prettier, and the skin was so tender that I can't see any reason to go to the extra lengths of peeling it.

Next step.  Add the tomatoes and peppers (and daikon, if using).  Stir and continue to cook over medium heat until the ingredients soften a bit and are pretty.  That should take about 10-12 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cook about 3 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Time to add spices!  Add the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin, paprikas and bay leaves. Cook for a couple more minutes.

Stir in the meat and any juices that are sitting in the bottom of the bowl.

Pour in 5 cups of stock.  When I got started making this soup, I was under the distinct impression that I had a carton of beef stock in the pantry.  I think the monster that lives under the shelf drank it.

So all I had was chicken stock, and it worked decently.  I'm sure a homemade beef stock would be infinitely better, but oh well.

Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer, covered, until the meat is tender.  That should be somewhere around 45 minutes.  Check after 30 minutes to see if you need to add the last cup of stock.  Remove the bay leaves.

Stir in the garlic.  Feel free to add more than two measly cloves, if you like it to be garlicky.  We do!

Add the vinegar, parsley and cilantro, reserving a little for a garnish.

Remove from heat and let stand about 10 minutes before serving.
When I made this, we were so hungry by the time it was done that nobody wanted to wait another 10 minutes for it to stand or for noodles (bad time management on my part, I know).  So this was how we ate it.  It does work quite well as a soup by itself!  Crusty rye bread, or lavash if you have it, makes a good accompaniment. 

The next day (and yes, this soup is equally great or possible better the next day, after the flavors have time to mingle), I did boil some noodles and we had it the (more or less) authentic way.  Honestly, I like it either way.  So try both and let me know what you think!

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