How to make Qurutob – Tajikistan’s national dish
What is Qurutob?
One of the national dishes of Tajikistan, the other being plov (osh), qurutob is a communal plate traditionally eaten by hand. The name qurutob derives from qurut – the dried balls of salty cheese which are dissolved in water that forms the backbone of the dish. The food is simple, with minimal ingredients and the taste is certainly not to everyone’s liking (it wasn’t our favourite) but the Tajiks swear by it!
Qurutob: the origin
Tajikistan is a mountainous and generally poor country and the dish reflects the simplicity of Tajik cuisine and lifestyle of its recent past.
Winters are harsh and in order to survive the freezing temperatures food would have to be stored, especially as many isolated communities would be cut off by snow and impassable paths. Vegetables such as onion are resilient and the dried yoghurt balls would have to be mixed with hot water, add a little oil and home baked bread, and you have the bases of a qurutob! Furthermore, the dish is high in calories and is a real energy boost and antidote to the cold for hard-working peasants. When the weather improves in the summer, additionally vegetables are added as they spring forth from the earth.
Why is the ‘non’ so important?
Bread, or non (нон) in Tajik, holds an almost mythical status in Central Asia. It forms an essential part of every meal and many strange superstitions surround it. If you visit a well stocked Tajik home replete with food but breadless, the homeowner will ashamedly reply that the cupboards are bare. If bread falls on the floor it is immediately put on a high shelf for beggars or birds and woe betide the person who puts bread upside down, or anything other than more bread on top of a loaf, as bad luck is apparently assured.
Ingredients for qurutob
-500g of qurut (dry cheese/yoghurt balls), Tvarog (white quark cheese) or Greek yoghurt
– bread (ideally Central Asian non, but you can use any bread)
The amount of vegetables depends on your preference and on how big the dish you want to make. There is no fixed amount
– spring onion
Same as with vegetable, use as much as you like
– 100g crushed walnuts
– 3 chilli peppers
– pepper (to taste)
– hot water (use more water if you are using qurut or twarog)
– poppy seed oil (or any vegetable oil).
How to make a Tajik qurutob
Qurutob is a super simple dish and anyone (even a child) can make it. Hope you like it! Bon appetit!
1) Toast bread in the oven for 20 min at 100oC
2) Chop and slice vegetables
3) To make the yoghurt base using qurut: pour hot water onto your cheesy balls and stir them for about 15 minutes until the water is white. You will use this yoghurty water and not the quruts themselves
To make the yoghurt base using cheese or Greek yoghurt: add a little bit of hot water (more in case of cheese) and mix until you get a homogeneous mixture of yoghurty water
4) Add the walnuts, salt and pepper (to taste) to your yoghurty water
5) Add the herbs
6) Rip toasted bread and add it to your yoghurty water to cover all of it. Don’t mix it. You will have soggy bread at the bottom and crunchy on top
7) Place vegetables on top of the bread
8) Add more herbs on top
9) Add raw onion, salt and pepper to taste
10) In a pan fry some onions on poppy seed oil and pour it on top of your dish
11) Add more vegetables and herbs
12) Place chilli peppers on top