Jews have lived in the Central Asian city of Bukhara since the reign of King David. One of their unique Purim specialties is an intricately decorated flatbread called Kulchi Ravghaniy. Flatbreads have been baked in Bukhara for over 12,000 years, and are described in one of the world’s oldest written stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh. In Bukhara bread symbolizes life. Jews celebrate the life of Queen Esther and the Jewish community by serving these festive loaves during the Purim feast.
Bukharan Jews prepare a rich dough for Purim, flavored with sheep’s tail fat. Sheep’s tail fat or tallow is the Bukharan equivalent of schmaltz. After the yeasty dough has risen, it is divided into balls. Each ball of dough is rolled out, and decorated with a bread stamp or chekich. These stamps perforate the dough, allowing the steam to escape from the bread as it bakes, and prevent the center of the bread from rising too much.
The bread is baked in a tandyr oven. This is like a brick pizza oven. It is built of stone or clay. Wood is burned in the central chamber of the oven. The dough is slapped onto the hot walls of the oven to bake. The bread is ready when it falls from the wall onto the floor of the oven.
Bukahran Tallow Flatbread: Kulchi Ravghaniy
Adapted from Classic Central Asian Jewish Cuisine and Customs by Amnun Kimyagarov
- 3 1/3 cups flour
- 1 cake fresh yeast
- 2/3 cup sheep tallow
- 1 tsp. salt
- Sesame seeds
- Warm water
- Dissolve the salt in some warm water.
- Place the yeast in 1 cup of warm water.
- Heat the tallow in a pot.
- Pour the flour into a bowl.
- Create a depression in the center, and pour the warm tallow and yeast in it.
- Knead the dough.
- Add the salt brine.
- Continue kneading.
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise for 3 hours.
- Punch the dough down after every hour.
- Divide the dough into 2 balls.
- Allow them to rise for 25 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll each ball out into a ¼ inch thick circle.
- Make a decorative pattern with a bread stamp or fork.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Cove a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and place the bread on it.
- Bake for 20 minutes.