Chicken has never really been on the traditional Uzbek menu. With red meat like lamb and beef taking centre stage in Uzbek cuisine, there’s never been a huge appetite for chicken here. Of course, you can pick at processed poultry at plenty of KFC branches, but who comes to Uzbekistan for that?
Enter Ugulok, a one-of-a-kind chicken restaurant and relic of the Soviet Union. An unpretentious dining hall with only one main meal on the menu, and that’s half of a young roast chicken, more commonly known here as tsiplyata tabaka. Served with salad, bread, and a mildly spicy tomato juice, this is the meaty, greasy, bony experience I’d been yearning for. There are no chicken strips or twister wraps here. Just bone and breadcrumb littered tables wiped down by a small army of diligent Russian women in a busy cafe where free tables are as scarce as hen’s teeth.
“This is a typical Soviet Union restaurant“, my wife half-jokingly remarks. “Everybody is eating the same dish.” As I glance around this oddly shaped room, I notice that every table appears the same, with the only distinction being the choice of beverages.
Only in this restaurant does it seem completely normal to see a young Muslim family enjoying Pepsi at one table while two older men engage in hushed conversation over a bottle of vodka at the neighboring one.
Tashkent is a city of contrasts, and this is certainly one of them.