The Uzbek Kazan: A Cultural and Culinary Treasure

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The Uzbek Kazan is a traditional cooking pot used in Central Asia, especially in Uzbekistan. It is an essential tool in the kitchen for cooking various dishes, including plov, which is considered the national dish of Uzbekistan. This cookware has been used for centuries and has played a significant role in the history and culture of the region. I like to say to my family that it’s the Tagine of Uzbekistan :).

Plov (the national dish of Uzbekistan) being cooked in a large cast iron Kazan with 4 handles.

How Do You Use An Uzbek Kazan

The Uzbek Kazan is a large, round, deep-bottomed pot, typically made of cast iron with 2-4 handles and often compared to a deep wok or cauldron. Cast iron Kazan’s are popular due to their durability and ability to retain heat. The pot is heated over an open flame and used for slow-cooking stews, soups, and other dishes. The shape of the pot and its lid helps to trap steam and heat, creating an environment in which the food cooks evenly and retains its flavour. Most Kazan’s will also come with small holes on the handles to hold it over an open fire.

A Kazan containing a plov base with an attached handle to hold it over an open fire.

Instructions Of General Use:

  1. Prepare the ingredients: To cook in a kazan, you will need to gather your ingredients, such as meat, vegetables, spices, and liquids like water or broth.
  2. Heat the Kazan: Place the kazan on a heat source such as a stove or a fire. Heat the kazan gradually, allowing it to warm up to avoid cracking or warping.
  3. Add oil: Once the kazan is warm, add a generous amount of oil, such as vegetable oil, to the bottom of the kazan. This will help the meat brown and cook properly as well as prevent sticking and add flavour to your dish.
  4. Add ingredients: Uzbeks always start with browning the meat first and then adding the onions. Then the rest of the vegetables are added before finally adding the spices and water or broth.
  5. Cover the Kazan: Once all the ingredients are in the kazan, place the lid on top to seal in the heat and allow the food to cook.
  6. Cook the Dish: Cook the dish over a low to medium heat, depending on the recipe. Stir occasionally to ensure that the food cooks evenly and to prevent sticking.
  7. Serve: Once the food is cooked, remove the kazan from the heat source and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy your delicious Uzbek dish!

Note: It’s important to use heat-resistant oven mitts or tongs when handling the kazan as the metal can get very hot.

What Foods Are Cooked In A Kazan?

In Uzbekistan, the Kazan is more than just a cooking tool; it is a symbol of the country’s rich cultural heritage. In Uzbek folklore, the Uzbek Kazan is often depicted as a powerful object, capable of magically transforming simple ingredients into delicious, aromatic dishes. The pot is also a popular subject in Uzbek traditional arts and crafts, including ceramics and textiles.

Plov – Uzbek Rice Pilaf

Plov is the most well-known dish cooked in the Kazan. It is a rice-based dish, cooked with meat (typically lamb or beef), carrots, onions, and a blend of spices. The ingredients are layered in the Kazan and cooked over low heat until the flavours have melded together. Plov is typically served with flatbread and a variety of side dishes, including salads and pickles.

A large platter of Uzbek Plov garnished with garlic & meat.

Shurpa -Uzbek Soups

Another popular dish cooked in the Uzbek Kazan is shurpa, a meat and vegetable soup that is often made with lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onions. The soup is simmered in the Kazan over low heat until the meat is tender and the flavours have blended together. Shurpa is traditionally served with flatbread and is considered a hearty, comforting meal.

Soup being cooked in an iron Kazan outside on a barbeque grill.

Breads

The Kazan is also used for cooking various other dishes, including samsa, which is a type of savory pastry filled with meat, or vegetables. The samsa is wrapped in a laminated dough and then baked in the Kazan until golden and crispy. The Kazan is also used for cooking Uzbek bread.

Special Wedding Food

In addition to its culinary uses, the Uzbek Kazan has also played a role in the region’s cultural traditions. The pot is often used in celebration of special occasions, such as weddings and religious festivals. During these celebrations, large quantities of food are cooked in the Kazan and served to guests. In some communities, the Kazan is also used in rituals, such as the boiling of water for tea, which is a central part of Uzbek hospitality.

Large Plov preparation using a built-in Kazan for an Uzbek wedding.

Where Can I Buy An Uzbek Kazan?

The Uzbek Kazan is widely recognized as a symbol of the country’s rich culinary and cultural traditions. It’s been passed down from generation to generation and remains a cherished part of the country’s cultural heritage. Today, the pot comes in many shapes and sizes and can be found in homes and restaurants throughout Uzbekistan.

Unfortunately, Kazan’s are hard to find outside of Uzbekistan. Many Uzbeks living overseas have had to take it with them from their home country. However, it’s not that easy transporting for tourists, iron kazan’s can be really heavy and take up a lot of baggage allowance. For someone that enjoys Uzbek food but won’t be cooking it on a regular basis, it can be hard to justify the inconvenience.

Amazon.com has a good selection of kazan’s that are reasonably priced, and their collection has got broader in these recent years.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Uzbek Kazan is an essential part of the country’s cultural heritage and a valuable tool in the kitchen. Its unique shape and design make it an ideal cooking pot for slow-cooking dishes. Its use has played a significant role in the region’s culinary traditions. Whether you are cooking up a pot of plov or simply enjoying a bowl of shurpa, the Uzbek Kazan is sure to add a touch of history and tradition to your meal.

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