Sufra: Exploring the Silk Road
So my adventure with the team at Frying Pan Adventures continues with the journey into Sufra, a new experience they have launched for us residents specifically to help us see new sides to this city. Its great for anyone but if you are going to do a lot of new stuff regularly (and they have a fabulous line-up), then Sufra is definitely the way to go.
Anyway, the first curated event was earlier this week - their Silk Road or Stalin. I was curious about the link between Korean and Uzbek food and this evening was a revelation. We started with the Korean restaurant where we tried some of their key dishes that we were to find “equivalents” of in the next one. Curious? So was I and I am glad I went. Unlike the normal Frying Pan food tours, this experience is not just about eating or listening but a discussion on the ingredients, the taste, the changes and the influences etc.
At Koreana, our first stop, we had sharing platters of Tteokbokki (fish cakes, rice cakes in a spicy seafood sauce with melted cheese), Banchan (assorted pickles including the ubiquitous kimchi), Mul Naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles with cold meat and pear juice broth) and Guksu (wheat noodles and vegetable broth). I did not even try to pronounce the names but I was a bit dubious about the combination of seafood and cheese - it was spicy but not fishy enough to clash with the Korean cheese but not one I would rush back for. Wasn’t sure about the texture of the rice cakes either. My favourite had to be the cold meat soup. The flavour combinations of sweet, salty and cold were a revelation. Would definitely go back for this and the pickled cucumber.
We had the first hint of the link to the next restaurant when the owner of Koreana hinted at war and displaced Koreans moving to USSR (as it was known then). Apparently, a lot of Russians go to Korean restaurants looking for the version of Korean food they are used to. So we went to the next restaurant, UZB Avenue.
Here we were served with dishes that used similar ingredients so we started with “kimchi” (it was more pickled cabbage but not how the Koreans make it) served with a flaky layered break (Katlama-Patyr). Since it wasn’t traditional kimchi - it tasted quite nice with the bread which was suitably light, flaky and delicious. This was followed by Kuksi (a cold broth and their take on the Mul Naengmyeon), Lagman Soup (beef broth based on Guksu) and a Spicy Korean Chicken that was their take on Tteokbokki. Once again, for me the cold broth was delicious. The “Korean” take by the Uzbeks was a more mellow and meaty version and, in my opinion, was a disservice to the Uzbeks but it certainly wasn’t Korean.
I do like authentic food and love some of the fusion stuff too. I would not pick one side over the other as long as it is tasty. I think I am more authentic than evolution (it was the choices we had to make) though these days (as the conversation went), everything we eat is an evolution and an amalgamation of our circumstances, what we can find and influences of the community around us.
So if you want to explore and discover, and you love food, try one of their next Sufra events. As a member, you get special options. I highly recommend it.