Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Samarkand – Food from the Crossroads of History

Samarkand – Food from the Crossroads of History

The actual Samarkand is an ancient city in Uzbekistan. It prospered as a stop along the Silk Road, a system of trade routes that connected China and the Mediterranean centuries ago. The coming and going of traders brought a diversity of foods to the region, and today in downtown Daegu that rich heritage can be found at Samarkand the restaurant.

Samarkand the restaurant is famous for three things – the borsch, a beet soup with potatoes and beef; the pickled, lightly spiced carrots cut long like spaghetti noodles; and the variety of Baltika beers from Russia, with proofs ranging from a suitable average to “OMG, is this soju?”. Any trip to Samarkand should have at least these three things on the table, though of course the menu rambles across cuisines and can offer something for everyone.

There are pickled cucumbers available as well, and I especially love these because they’re salty and sour dill pickles, not the sweet ones we usually see in Korea. My Korean friends have mixed reactions to such sour, salty pickles, but for many foreigners they’re a delightful change of pace. Put them in the borsch!

As mentioned, the stock of Baltika runs from the #3, a fairly lightweight beer, to the heartier #9. And for the more stout among you there is, naturally, a refrigerator full of various vodkas (not pictured).

You can see on the menu many other dishes – a lot of soups and meats and so on. Other pages feature some vegetables dishes, mandu and more. You may have to navigate a few languages to zero in on exactly what some things are, but the pictures will help you out if you can’t be bothered.

The interior is open and clean, and Samarkand is rarely crowded. The wait time for food can take a while, but rest assured it’s because most dishes are prepared to order. While you wait, enjoy the YouTube playlist of Uzbekistan’s hottest pop acts. I have no clue what they’re talking about, but you can’t resist the beat.

When your meal is done and you’re full of beets and beer, if you can pull yourself out of your chair, check out the variety of snacks, nuts, pickles and breads available for sale. There’s even some delicious salted, cured sausages in one of the fridges.

Samarkand is located conveniently downtown toward the northern end of Dongseongno. It’s a welcome alternative from the relentless pasta-and-pizza and dessert café crowd, with the added bonus of having authentic, native cooks in the kitchen. Samarkand lacks the pizzazz and gloss of other places downtown, but they’re busy putting their energy into hearty food for hungry stomachs, not glitter to dazzle the eye.

To get there from Jungangno Station, take exit 3, then turn right at the corner. Go down the block, then turn right again. You can see the sign for Samarkand up on the third floor. Or just check the map link below.

Address: 2-3 Dongseongno 2-ga Jung-gu, Daegu‎
Map link: https://goo.gl/maps/XRrAk5crLfk 

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