Central Asia has always played an important role in connecting the East and the West both during the Silk Road period and now by joining the One Belt One Road Initiative. Rich Turkic and Persian history and culture later affected by Soviet diversity are reflected in the wide variety of cuisine.
The Central Asia Centre is a non-governmental organisation aiming to provide Hongkongers a chance to explore the history, culture, traditions and nature of Central Asia. It has organised a cooking workshop to demonstrate Uzbek culinary art. The cooking class instructor from Uzbekistan, Ms. Munira, shows how to make golden-crispy buns with juicy meat — Uzbek samsa, which is a must-have on each table in her home country.
To cook samsa, Ms. Munira has prepared yeast dough beforehand. "To make yeast dough I mixed wheat flour, water, eggs, yeast, sugar and salt together. I let the dough stay for a while for yeast to activate and cut the dough in several pieces," she said.
Traditionally, samsa is made of puff pastry. That is why transforming yeast dough into the puff pastry is very important step to make sure samsa is soft and crispy at the same time. Ms. Munira rolled out a dough and is oiling it with soft unsalted butter, which adds a beautiful golden color to a pastry.
Rolling out the pastry is a very important part of cooking for every Central Asian. In some countries, historically, brides were assessed by the way they roll out the dough. Some of the pastries are even considered holy and are made each Friday to celebrate the memory of ancestors.
Affected by Nomadic life, the common fillings of the samosas are different types of meat: mutton, poultry, beef and even horse meat. Today, there are also vegetarian options filled with cheese, peas and lentils.
Ms. Munira fills in the small pieces of pastry with minced meat mixed with onions, spices and herbs, such as pepper, dry parsley, dill, coriander, marjoram and basil. "In modern days, each housewife chooses what kind of spices to add herself," she said.
Ms. Munira shows a samsa sculpting method, which is braiding the pastry. Samsa can also be sculpted in different shapes: triangle like Indian samosas, round bun, or in a form that resembles Chinese dumplings.
Sculpted and braided samsas filled with minced meat and spices are then sprinkled with oil once more for a golden finish. "Oiling is very important as it doesn’t let samsas get dry in the oven," said Ms Munira.
Samsas made by Ms. Munira and the workshop attendees are served hot. "It's like eating bread and drinking the soup that is inside the bread. The meat is really juicy, it's an incredible experience," said Mr. Wong, a workshop participant.
Central Asia cuisine workshop was held in Oh Food Arabic restaurant in a framework of Central Asia Centre. "I'm very happy to organise this kind of cooking class and let local people know about Central Asian culture through the taste of our cuisine," said Ms. Saya Kyzylbayeva, the founder of Central Asia Centre in Hong Kong.