With my final adventure in Samarkand upon me, I headed out to go on a paper & silk workshop tour and tried more of Uzbekistan’s ultimate street food, rice plov! Come along with me as I wrap up my exploration of Samarkand!
I started at a local paper workshop where they make paper the ancient, traditional way! The place looked like a really old house, and there were streams running through the property. There was even a water wheel!
I watched as the women there skinned the tree branches they were working with. Then, they would put the skin in buckets of water and leave it for three days. From there, they boil it for five hours!
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Next, my guide and I set off for another room in the facility. But outside the room was another stream with a huge log connected to a continuously turning wheel. It’s an ancient technology that’s still used today. As the log turns, it makes a mechanism inside the room pound the boiled skin from the branches, which is put in a frame. It takes nine hours for the machine to pound the skin into paper. They add press it with a large rock for an entire day, and after that, you have paper! They make two types of paper: one from trees and one from cotton.
Once the paper is pressed, it’s put up to dry it. In the summer heat, it only takes 5 hours to dry, but in winter, it takes an entire day. The final step after drying the paper is smoothing it by rubbing it on each side with a stone for 15 minutes.
I got to try it myself. It was intense work, but I could see the excess fibers coming off it. They use the paper to make lots of different products, including masks, hats, purses, dolls, and clothing! I couldn’t wait to buy a mask. They cost 400,000 som/$42.06 USD each, but I negotiated down to 350,000 som each since I bought three. They were really unique and this is the only place in Uzbekistan where you’ll find them!
Always carry cash in Uzbekistan; they don’t really use credit cards here. I actually wanted to buy more masks, but I didn’t have enough cash on me!
Next, we headed to the silk-weaving workshop. Ten minutes later, we arrived and I started learning how the carpets are made. They can get 1,200 meters of thread from one silk cocoon. At this factory, they only use natural vegetable dyes from things like roots, flowers, and pomegranate skin.
Eighty women work there in total. To see them, I walked through the facility, past lots of the rugs they make, which were displayed on the walls. The craftsmanship in them was incredible and takes months to complete! They make silk carpets here, while their factory in Afghanistan makes them out of wool.
The women here work from 9 to 5, 5 days a week. They don’t switch up designs here. Instead, they use old, traditional patterns because they have special meaning. This is the largest silk factory in Central Asia. The women have to have a lot of patience to do what they do and they have to know where each color goes!
I was blown away by the carpets in the showroom. There were so many colors and sizes. The smallest cost $80 USD, while some of the larger ones were at least $1,000 USD.
Next, we headed to Axmadjon Lux Osh to eat Uzbekistan’s ultimate street food, plov! The chef prepared a huge one for me. The carrots go on top of the rice here, followed by beef, chickens, horse, eggs, chickpeas, cucumber, and a huge piece of fat! It was huge!
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The plov came with bread, tomato salad, yogurt, and a minty yogurt drink. You serve yourself from the plov. This one was different from others I’d had because it had chicken in it.
The rice was nice and oily and I loved the yellow carrots. I couldn’t get enough of the horse sausage, and the quail egg was really tasty. The chicken was a tiny baby. Inside, it was like minced chicken! It was so different from other rice dishes I’d had around the world. The yellow carrots added a nice sweetness! There was also a spicy red pepper!
I mixed some yogurt with the rice and meat, which blended really well with everything! I loved it! The horse was gamy but so good. It’s no wonder plov is Uzbekistan’s ultimate street food! Then I tried some super strong vodka!
I ended with the tomato, onion, and cucumber salad. It’s refreshing and similar to Greek salad, only without the feta cheese.
I hope you enjoyed visiting the workshops and trying Uzbekistan’s ultimate street food in Samarkand with me! If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of my upcoming travel/food adventures!