Bread in Uzbekistan, called "non", has always been sacred - always in the center of every household and gathering. When a family member is about to leave the house for travelling, he should take a small bite of the non bread, which will be then kept untouched until the person returns.
The non bread is almost always flat and round, and it is baked in a special kind of clay oven, called "tandyr", which makes bread crispy from outside and extremely light and tasty on the inside. This oven can be in-build into the wall or dug directly into the ground outside of the house. This type of ovens is very popular throughout Asia, with many varieties, sizes and special features, all of which define the specific taste and consistency of the bread.
There are generally two types of flat breads in Uzbekistan, plain (called "obi-non") and festive, with different fillings and flavors (called "patyr").
However, one can be lost trying to count all the varieties of each type of non that exist, all of them different and mostly very specific to a particular town or sometimes even occasion.
The specificity of the non bread does not stop with the baking method, special recipes and flavors. Each type of bread has very characteristic shape of pattern stamped in the center of it, making this parts more flat and thus adding different consistency and taste to the bread.
To make such patterns on the non bread, special stamps, called "chekich", are used, made of many carefully arranged thin needles fixed on a carved handle, which traditionally is made from a fruit tree.
Each stamp is usually hand-made by the particular baker and most often represents nature motifs, such as sun, stars, flowers or even wind. And of course, the design on the flat bread is very specific to each type of non, region and baker. Needless to say how satisfying it is to the eye to eat such beautiful bread!
The recipes of specific non breads are often kept in secret, passed on through generations and are usually very particular to the region, some of which are so good and famous that people would travel from far away just for the bread. The inimitable taste of the each type of non bread is due to a very unique kind of yeast culture used for the dough. It has to be cultivated and added at the right time and proportions and cannot be substituted for anything else.
One of the most famous non bread comes from small village Gala-Osiyo, which is very close to Samarkand. It has over fifteen varieties which all have quite complicated recipes, which usually include specially fermented cream or whey, with finely chopped onions and sesame oil. Such breads taste wonderful even after several days and can be easily refreshed by simply steaming it over a pot of water or stew.
Fergana valley is also famous for very tasty type of non bread - "katlama-non" made out of flaky dough, where each layer is covered with butter or sour cream. In other regions non breads can be filled with meats or made with crackling, then called "jizzali-non", or made with corn flour - "zogora-non", or even with special herb-essence, called "kuk-patyr", and many many other.
Most importantly, non breads are never cut with the knife and should be broken into pieces by hand at the beginning of the meal. And it should never be placed the flat bread up side down, with the stamped pattern facing down, even when it is brocken in pieces, as it is considered extremely disrespectful in Uzbekistan.
How to Make Simple Non Bread at Home
- 450 g of flour
- 1 tea spoon of salt
- 1 tea spoon of dry yeast
- 290 ml of water or milk
- sesame seeds
HOW TO MAKE:
- Mix flour, salt and dry yeast.
- Add lukewarm water (or milk) and stir into a dough by hands.
- Let the dough go up at least two times, each time re-kneading it and hitting it against the table surface.
- Afterwards, separate the dough into 4 equal parts and form into flat pancakes 1,5 - 2 cm thick.
- Make a flat impressions in the middle of the dough pieces with a cup or anything round you have at your hand.
- Sprinkle some water and then sesame seeds on the top of the formed dough pieces and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
- Bake for 12 - 15 minutes at 250ºC in the oven.