Lagman

imageLagman, a lamb and vegetable noodle dish, is one of several signature Uzbek dishes, along with plov (lavish rice and lamb pilaf,) samsa (tandoor baked savory pastries,) manty (steamed dumplings,) and kebabs. Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country, is a part of the historically rich region that was overrun by several empires, from the Persian Samanid and later Timurid dynasties, to the Russian monarchy, to the Soviet Union. The traces of each marked this land, leaving its imprints in its peoples, its traditions and its food. Lagman is a case in point. Brought to Central Asia by Chinese speaking Muslims, this dish shares many similarities with East Asian noodle soups. There are many varieties of lagman, ranging from the simple tomato and potato versions that we usually make here in Saudi Arabia to lo mien like stir fries, and to luxurious preparations in which noodles are pulled to be as thin as silk threads.

In Central Asia the dish has thicker noodles. Lamian is known as lagman (لەغمەن) or langman  (لەڭمەن) in Uyghur and lag’mon (лағмон) in Uzbek, both derived from the Chinese word lamian.   It is especially popular in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, where it is considered a national dish of the local Uyghur and Dungan ethnic minorities. It is also popular in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and northeastern Afghanistan, where chick peas are added to it, and in the Chitral and Gilgit regions of northern Pakistan, where it is known as Kalli or Dau Dau.

I first tasted Lagman when we went to Medina during the Holy Month of Ramadan.    It was made by the lovely Miss Samah Najdi, the sister of  Miss Bouthainah Najdi, my main inspiration in making this blog.  Made with variety of vegetables and lavishly garnished with fresh aromatic herbs, each mouthful of lagman is a fusion of vibrant flavor.   The soup base can be made in advance, and like most stewed dishes, it benefits from an overnight rest. The noodles are cooked separately and are then combined with the soup base according to your preferences. Some people like to have more broth while some like it dried.  Whatever your choice is, lagman is a delightful experience of flavor and  aroma that will surely linger in your memory.

Ingredients:

1 lb.  lamb, including a couple of bones, cut into cubes (you may use beef if you want)

2 tbsps.  vegetable oil

2 large onions cut into thin rounds

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick julienne

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed (or 1 cup canned tomatoes)

1 tbsp. tomato paste

1 red sweet pepper, cut into strips

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small cabbage, cut into thin strips

2 medium  potatoes, cut into cubes

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp. black pepper

salt according to your taste

3 cups of water

Spaghetti,  spaghettini, linguini, fettucini, udon or other thick noodles (you may use any of these noodles according to your personal preference)  boiled and set aside

Steps in preparing the soup base:

  •  Add oil in a pot, then add in the cubed meat  then stir-fry until light-brown. Add the onions to the meat. Add spices (black pepper, cumin, salt) and stir fry until onions are golden in color.
  • Add the tomato, tomato paste and minced garlic. Mix everything well and stir-fry until tomatoes are nicely soft.
  • Add the remaining vegetables. Mix well and stir-fry for another 4 minutes.  Add water and turn the heat down to medium. Let the soup simmer for 40 minutes. You may adjust the time according to your preference in cooking your vegetables.

Assembly:

Put the pasta on a deep bowl,  then just ladle in the soup with the vegetables.  You may garnish it with spring onion  and serve it with hot sauce or black vinegar with chopped fresh green chili.

Yoqimli ishtaha! (This means enjoy your meal in Uzbek)

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