Like most Jewish sub-groups, Bukharians, who lived for centuries in Central Asia, have an array of dishes they’ve carried with them through years of political upheaval and emigration. There are no shortage of Bukharian restaurants in Israel and New York—in Queens’ Rego Park neighborhood, especially—but very few true Bukharian Jewish dishes grace those menus, which are filled with the sizzling kebabs and greasy dumplings common across Central Asia.
Definition: Bukharan Jews, also Bukharian Jews or Bukhari Jews, also called the Binai Israel, are Jews from Central Asia who speak Bukhori, a dialect of the Tajik-Persian language.
Instead, authentic Bukharian cuisine, which features several unique varieties of rice pilaf, reveals itself on the Sabbath and festivals. “We always do Shabbat with Jewish food,” says Imanuel Rybakov, a professor of Bukharian culture at Queens College in New York. “On other days of the week, we prepare food that is common with people of Central Asia.”
No Bukharian Shabbat table is complete without fried fish in garlic sauce, explains Amnun Kimyagarov, author of Classic Central Asian (Bukharian) Jewish Cuisine and Customs, the only English-language Bukharian cookbook. Kimyagarov suggests freshwater fish, such as carp, perch, pike or trout.
Mohibir’Yon (Fried Fish)
- 2 pounds fish
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons coarse salt
In a metal dish, using a wooden pestle, pound garlic and salt to a paste.
Dissolve garlic mixture in 7/8 cup of water. Add cilantro and mix thoroughly.
Cut fish into 1-1 1/2-inch thick round chunks or 4-6-inch slices.
Wash fish chunks thoroughly, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 15-20 minutes in a basket or colander. Wash thoroughly.
In a Dutch oven, heat oil and add fish, inner side up.
Fry for 4-5 minutes until crusty. Turn over and fry on other side for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a dish.
Cool to room temperature and soak in garlic sauce.
Oshi Piyozi (Stuffed Onions)
- 2 pounds meat
- 7/8 cup peas
- 5/8 cup vegetable oil
- 7/8 cup white rice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 pounds onions
- 7/8 cup fresh cherry plums or dried cherry plums
Soak peas for 3-4 hours. Remove skins.
Peel onions, place in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 20 minutes.
Remove onions from water, cut lengthwise and separate layers.
If necessary, de-bone the meat.
Using a meat grinder, process meat. Add rice, salt and pepper. Mix.
Divide the meat mixture into 1-tablespoon portions, wrap in onion layers and shape into sharp-edged cylinders.
In a Dutch oven, heat oil, add bones and meat scraps and sauté for 5-10 minutes.
Add peas, cherry plums and stuffed onions. Cover with water.
Cover Dutch oven with an overturned china plate 1 inch smaller than the diameter of the oven. Press down lightly.
Bring liquid to a boil then lower heat. Making sure the onions are covered tightly, simmer for 1 1/2 -2 hours.