Central Asia is perhaps one of the most difficult places in the world to be a vegan or vegetarian.
Uzbek cuisine has evolved over hundreds of years and Uzbek people are proud of their national dishes, which include lamb and beef meat and are often cooked in animal fat. Veganism is almost non-existent here.
I had the privilege of meeting Akmal, the creative mind behind Tashkent’s only veggie food tour and asked him about his business and vegan life in Uzbekistan.
Vegans in Uzbekistan
I met Akmal in Alay Bazaar and he was every bit as humble and patient as he was charismatic, well-dressed, and articulate.
I arrived 5 minutes late (despite living 5 minutes away) but he was incredibly punctual and brushed off my tardiness with a smile.
Vegans in Uzbekistan are as rare as vampires at garlic festivals but Akmal is as committed as they come. He ordered a delicious Korean-style vegetable and bean sandwich for me and we sat on a bench and talked about life as a vegan in Uzbekistan.
From mild suspicions to cult accusations, he tells me how he’s viewed by other Uzbeks here as he laughs and tucks into his tofu and vegetable sandwich. It’s impossible not to be impressed by his level of resilience.
Veganism in Uzbekistan is not particularly well understood but there are two vegetarian restaurants in Tashkent, the cosmopolitan capital of the country, as well as an increasing number of restaurants with vegan options.
Uzbek food is not traditionally vegan but its cuisine has expanded to include more options. The traditional foods of spinach or pumpkin somsa (samosa) and tomato and potato khanum have been joined by a modern version of vegetable shashlik and even vegan plov at some modern restaurants.
Learn more about Tashkent’s only Vegan Food Tour.
Vegan Food Tour In Tashkent
Akmal’s tour currently spans 4 different sites including Chorsu Bazaar, Alay Bazaar, TSUM (central department store) and a Khorezmian style restaurant. He has either found or arranged vegan food at each spot and even offers the chance of a beer at the last place.
We only went to Alay Bazaar but as a resident of Tashkent, I can vouch for the other spots being equally as good tourist places to visit.
He proudly admits that the tour is not perfect, and that he’s always on the look out for better options.
Ironically, his tour is just as popular with meat eaters as it is with vegans, which I find testament to his charm and knowledge of the city!
The tour gives you a chance to see lesser known parts of Tashkent, with walks, anecdotes and plenty of plant-based street food such as pumpkin dumplings, fried potato pies, and Khanum, potato pastries in rich tomato sauce.
So if you find yourself in Tashkent looking for an excellent food tour of the city, I highly recommend this particular tour.
Read our guide to travel in Tashkent.
Food Tour Itinerary
The tour is not completely fixed but customizable depending on the customer’s preferences. The timing of the tour is also to be decided
A basic itinerary for the day is as follows:
- Pick Up from Your Hotel
- Chorsu Bazaar – Tashkent’s Largest Bazaar including Gluttony Lane
- Alay Bazaar: Tashkent’s Best Farmers Market
- Central Department Store: Uzbek Style Vegan Street Food
- Residential Area Bistro: with Khorezmian Style Food and Draft Beer!
Tashkent Vegan Tour Reviews
“Pleasant vegan tour in Tashkent at the beginning of our Uzbek trip. It gave me the opportunity to visit nice markets and get introduced to tasty vegan food, which is so hard to find in Uzbekistan.” – Read more…
“Pick up from hotel was easy. I was the only client for this tour so the experience was special. Exploring the markets and tasting delicious vegan street food was a great experience. It was a great break from meat centric Uzbek cuisine.” – Read more…
Akmal says that in the future he hopes to add a vegan plov masterclass plus an Uzbek bread baking course to his tours. As soon as we get any updates, we’ll be sure to share on this page.
His sister, who is also vegan, is a budding artist and is in the process of creating T-shirts. Her Instagram is here.
Read our full guide to tourism in Central Asia if you’re thinking about visiting Uzbekistan.