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2021  N1-2(190-191)
TRADITION
“ASHGABAT” IN MOSCOW
Many people go on a journey following a well-known proverb, saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” At the same time, the sense of touch, smell and taste can also add to the range of sensations. And this is exactly the case when you don’t have to go on a long journey.
The fact is that you can get an unforgettable experience of the traditional culture of a country by tasting the dishes of the national cuisine. Such degustation can be tasty, healthy and interesting at the same time. It is no coincidence that food courts, where the most popular cuisines of the world are presented, have recently become popular in large world megalopolises.
In Moscow, there are dozens and hundreds of eateries and restaurants that are very popular. They specialize in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Thai, Italian, Mexican, Georgian, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Ukrainian food. Restaurateurs are fine-tuned to the globalization of trends to satisfy the gastronomic preferences of people, and they do their best to meet the growing demand.
The fact that there are numerous ethnic communities living compactly in modern large cities plays an important role in supporting catering outlets that offer national cuisines. Satisfying their culinary affections is another factor in the popularization of national gastronomic traditions.
A large number of Turkmenistan nationals live in Moscow. For the time being, they could enjoy the delights of the Turkmen dastarkhan at home to the extent of their cooking skills. However, quite recently the situation has changed for the better.
In the period of New Year holidays, the newly opened restaurant “Ashgabat” invited residents and guests of the Russian capital to a gastronomic journey across the expanses of Turkmen national cuisine.
In fact, this is the first and the only public catering place in the multi-million metropolis offering the traditional Turkmen cuisine. There are many cafes and restaurants in Moscow, where the fans of oriental cuisine can enjoy a varied menu to their taste. However, only “Ashgabat” restaurant offers the most authentic Turkmen dishes, such as Dograma – the queen of dastarkhan. The soup may seem to have the simplest ingredients: finely crumbled special baked flat cake, finely chopped boiled lamb and pieces of raw onion. A boiling lamb broth is poured over this mixture and sprinkled with black pepper. In the end, one gets an incredibly satisfying and tasty dish that is impossible to be ignored.
The collection of small culinary masterpieces is crowned with aromatic hot main courses like Shurpa and Unash. The restaurant boasts an inexhaustible set of variations of fried, steamed and baked dough combinations with various types of meat: dumplings, pasties, Somsa, Fitchi. The choice of Shish Kebabs on a real grill is varied.
Yet, Lyulya Kebab on the restaurant’s menu could be previously tasted only in real Ashgabat. Puffy and juicy minced meat “cigars” are served directly from the grill. A side dish is replaced with finely chopped greens and onions. The hot meat is generously sprinkled with herbs and always flavored with table vinegar. This is how they eat kebab in Ashgabat. And now the same cooking procedure can be performed in Moscow.
It is perhaps only the nationals of Turkmenistan who clearly associate the word “smoke” with a salad of grilled eggplants, tomatoes and bell peppers. So, “smoke” in the sense of “salad” is also on the menu of the new restaurant, and it would be simply wrong not to taste it.
The restaurant’s convenient location within walking distance from the metro station near the city center makes it attractive both for representatives of the Turkmen diaspora of the Russian capital and all other curious admirers of gastronomic delights who are ready to embark on an exciting journey across the endless expanses of the Turkmen dastarkhan. The cozy halls can accommodate many guests at a time. At the same time, one can order takeaway of the favorite oriental delicacies.
Now that the Russian capital got a restaurant serving the original Turkmen cuisine it has become easier to decide where to invite fellow countrymen to a meeting or where to arrange a family celebration for those who have taken a fancy to the Turkmen culture that is so vividly manifested by the national cuisine.

Mikhail PEREPLESNIN


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005