Uzbek Cuisine From the Golden Valley to the Valley of the Sun

Ask most folks their first impressions of Arizona and you'll most likely hear answers like, "heat," "desert," and "heat."

Not Olimjon Samidinov. His answers were, "freedom," and "jobs."

Samidinov is a political refugee who, along with several others, was brought to Phoenix by the United Nations after spending a year in a refugee camp following Uzbekistan's 2005 Andijan massacre.

Torn from their families and with no chance of ever returning to their homeland, Samidinov and two others (one a chef and owner of several restaurants in Uzbekistan) began to build a new life in Phoenix, eventually opening Golden Valley, an inexpensive, casual place serving Uzbek and Mediterranean cuisine.

Here's an excerpt from this week's review:

The most surprising thing about the signature Uzbek dish palov isn't that it's more satisfying and filling than it appears -- its rich, oily, and cumin-tinged bites of rice, onions, sliced carrots, and pieces of tender lamb as worthy of comfort-food status as any American casserole. No, the most surprising thing about palov is that in its native Uzbekistan, this rice dish is eaten with the hands and -- if you are a guest -- offered to you from the palm of your host.

"But we are a restaurant," says Olimjon Samidinov, nearly apologizing, "so we have to serve it with silverware."

Hungry for more? Read the full story on Golden Valley here.

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