Whuh? In the whuh whuh? That was the translation of the look on Ben's face when I told him what we were having for dinner last week. "Gulya Pinkhasov's Shurpa Lagman" doesn't exactly trip lightly off the tongue. I have to admit it was part of the reason why I chose to make that dish in the first place. Well, that and the fact that I'm not sure when I'll next eat Bukharian Jewish food (anyone else looking forward to Chassidic Hip Hop live in Queens on February 4th?). I know Rego Park isn't far from Chelsea, but the fact that I can't even drag myself to MoMA on a regular basis means I shouldn't exactly count on reporting to Regostan for a dinner date any time soon.
The recipe came with an article in the NY Times about the Bukharian Jewish community flourishing in Rego Park. I found it utterly fascinating. Bukharians don't consider themselves Ashkenazi or Sephardi but Babylonian. They speak anything from Farsi to Uzbek. And they eat Korean pickled carrots as an appetizer because of Stalin's mass deportations of ethnic Koreans from East to West. And isn't there something magical and otherworldy about hearing stories from the cities of Samarkand and Tashkent? It's not the first time I've thought about the wonder that is New York, and all the different people crammed within it. Amazing, really.
Shurpa lagman is a soupy lamb stew that's studded with cubed vegetables, flavored with cumin and white vinegar, and draped with chewy strands of noodles. Shurpa is a soup that's traditional to the Central Asian region, and lagman is the Bukharian version of Chinese lo mein, but Uighurs (Muslim Asians) also lay claim to it. I thought this dish would be a fitting entry for this month's Is My Blog Burning event, hosted by Amy and featuring the humble noodle. It was filling and hearty, and I liked the novelty of trying something so different, yet somehow familiar. Would I made it again? Well, I'm slowly establishing that cumin reminds me of certain unpleasantries, so I'm honestly not sure. Ben loved it and eagerly had seconds.
It's really pretty easy: you brown chunks of lamb meat, then boil them in beef broth for an hour and a half. At that point you throw in cubed turnips, peppers and carrots, some canned tomatoes, chickpeas and seasonings (I probably don't have to tell you that I left out the cilantro) and let that simmer until combined, another half hour. I loved the idea of adding white vinegar to "brighten" up the flavor - it worked like a charm. Then you boil up a pot of noodles (I used fresh fettuccine, because they were easier to find than Chinese egg noodles) and ladle out a portion on top of each filled soup bowl. Slurp up each spoon or forkful dreaming of the Silk Road.