Thursday, May 25, 2006


Yesterday, I went to lunch with a friend who's Chechen. I work with her and haven't known her for long, but I like her. She speaks many different languages, and seems to have a tapestry of experience that most people I know will never have. We ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Sometimes we don't entirely understand one another, and our conversations can sometimes be stilted, sometimes with long pauses before we respond to one another, as we try to understand what the other one is getting at.

We got to talking about different types of restaurants: Middle Eastern, Russian, Thai. She mentioned that Chechen food is quite different than Russian, but couldn't explain how. Just that it was. "It's very complicated cooking," she said. It seemed, from her description, to have a lot of steps.

Her inability to describe what Chechen dishes are like raised my curiousity, and I told her I'd find some recipes to try. The following is from The Prague Post, a review of "The Refugee's Cooking Pot":

Serves four
• 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) meat
• 4 potatoes
• 4 onions
• fat for frying
• 1 kilogram corn flour
• 1 egg (optional)
• 1 cup plain flour
• 4-5 cloves garlic
Optional: carrots, parsley, green onions, dill, according to taste

• Boil meat (chicken or any other, except pork). When cooked, allow to cool, cut into small pieces and lay aside.
• Reserve approximately 150 milliliters (about half a cup) of the stock and put into a bowl with garlic, finely chopped.
• Boil the potatoes and mash them coarsely -- but not to the level of a puree.
• Chop the onions and saute with carrots and herbs, if desired. Add onions and reserved stock with garlic to the potato mash to form a thick soup.
• Prepare pancakes by mixing flours together and slowly adding very hot water while stirring until a thick dough is created. (If you do not have corn flour, you can use the same amount of plain wheat flour with an egg instead. In this case, roll the dough flat and cut into squares.) Form small cakes, approximately 3 centimeters (just over 1 inch) in diameter. Gently drop the cakes (or squares) into a pot of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes.
• Add the cooked pancakes to the potato-garlic soup.

• To serve this dish in the typical Chechen manner, as it is served at special occasions, seat guests around the table and place the soup in the center. Place a serving of meat in a bowl, pour the soup over and season with more chopped garlic.

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