Red Corner: Eatin’ Dog

Kobe beef is usually the most expensive meat you can buy in an upscale market; in Uzbekistan, it’s dog meat.

Dog came to fashion in Uzbekistan thanks, in part, to Joseph Stalin. During his rule, Stalin exiled ethnic Koreans from Russia’s Far East to Central Asia where they introduced their fondness of dog into the land of shish kabob. Uzbeks themselves eventually came to embrace this new cuisine due to a widely held belief that dog meat was not only nutritional in value, but a medicinal panacea as well.

Uzbeks and Uzbek-Koreans alike are therefore willing to pay big bucks (or som in this case) to get their hands on this highly prized, canine cure-all. This is especially true today due to an outbreak of tuberculosis. Sadly, many who come down with this deadly disease are opting for shurpa (dog stew) in lieu of medical treatment. In the meantime, a rash of dog thefts is occurring amongst those who actually keep such potentially lucrative animals as pets.

Dog consumption isn’t only limited to the sick and contagious; it is still considered a delicacy and can be found on menus in some of the “better” Tashkent restaurants. I used to think that the cheap street food I ate in Uzbekistan was indeed dog meat, but that would be like serving Kobe beef in a Tijuana taco stand. I guess I was wrong.