By Tiffany Ran
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Suriya Yunosov and her family have long enjoyed samsa, filled puff pastry hand pies that can be savory or sweet, which Yunosov makes based on a family recipe. She was surprised to see that Uzbek food had not made a significant dent in the Northwest the way it has in New York City. Yunosov is the owner of Tabassum, a unique food truck offering an Uzbek menu based on these hand pies.
Through Tabassum, Yunosov brings her take on samsa to the Northwest. The samsa is a popular pastry throughout Central Asia with influences dating back to the Silk Road. Uzbekistan’s unique location between the Caspian Sea, China, and Russia is reflected in the cuisine’s diverse influences and relatability. Recently, the New York Times introduced New York-based Uzbek restaurant Café Lily, where chef Lilia Tyan brings Korean-Uzbek flavors. Tyan grew up in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. Tyan’s ancestors fled Korea in the mid-19th century to settle east of the Russian empire. At Lily, the kimchee is more mild and eaten alongside a rich array of manti, giant dumplings, and other dishes. Their sweet and tangy carrot strands is a unique take on a common Uzbek salad.
The ubiquitous samsa, as it’s known in Uzbekistan, is also identified as sambosa in Afghanistan, samosa in India, an sambusa in Iran. Tabassum’s variations include traditional butternut squash samsa with garlic and cumin, and a halal beef samsa with onion and cumin.
“Every family has their own distinct take on a samsa recipe,” said Yunosov. “My parents were from Northwestern China. My mom taught me her recipe, which in turn was her mother’s. But that said, I love to make the samsa my own way, which always makes my mom roll her eyes a bit.”
Through Tabassum, Yunosov also introduced untraditional spanakopita and chicken curry samsas, the kinds of flavors that would make her mother roll her eyes, but they are flavors she hopes would make people smile. Tabassum, she explained, is the Uzbek word for smile.
Yunosov’s shredded carrot salad is a version of a classic Uzbek carrot salad dressed in a zingy vinegar dressing. She also offers a beet salad to have with samsa. These items are popular street food in Central Asia and when the decision came to open a samsa business, a food truck seemed like a natural direction to go. Tabassum food truck serves office workers, but Yunosov has brought samsa to all kinds of audiences.
“It is such fun to be able to serve different crowds with a truck. We can roll up just about anywhere. So far, we’ve served everyone from a bunch of brave swimmers who dove into the freezing cold waters of Puget Sound at Golden Gardens in January, to true beer connoisseurs at local breweries Triplehorn and Ravenna Brewing,” said Yunosov.
Yunosov is very proud of her new addition to the menu, a cherry samsa enriched with a poppy seed paste and sweetened with honey. Tabassum plans to offer new menu items including plov, a rice and garbanzo bean dish with a touch of cumin and a sweet touch of raisins topped with halal beef. It’s a dish that’s served at every Uzbek family party, and one she is excited to bring to the food truck aptly named “Smile.”
Tabassum will be at the Mobile Food Rodeo in Fremont on May 7 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For other locations and times, visit tabassum.info.
Tiffany Ran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.