On an eastern San Fernando Valley block home to an odd amalgam of businesses, you’ll find Tashkent Produce, a Russian market and deli where you can get take-out portions of Uzbekistan’s national dish, plov, a rice pilaf.
The block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard is technically in what is now known as Valley Village, yet many still refer to the area as North Hollywood, which it used to be. And we can't think of any other block in L.A. where one can get art supplies, watch a live production of Wombat Man, order a grave marker and eat Uzbeki plov while your Nash Metropolitan is being repaired.
While many countries have a pilaf or similar dish, plov is woven deeply into the fabric of Uzbekistan, a central-Asian country that was formerly part of Russia. We’ve had versions of it that were more and less garlicky, more and less buttery, with chickpeas and without.
Named after the capital city of Uzbekistan, Tashkent is, first and foremost, a market. The store has a couple of narrow aisles filled with every Russian foodstuff imaginable, and there are freezer cases filled with frozen dumplings (vareniki and pelmeny), a wide selection of breads and produce. Being a deli means it has everything you’d expect from a deli. Being a Russian deli, that also means there is a smoked fish counter.
Near the back of the store, there’s an opening to an adjacent space where you’ll find the take-out counter. Shelves and a cooler of beverages, including beer and wine, line the walls of the small room, and display cases of Russian dishes and baked goods surround the counter. Behind the counter, you’ll find tubs of salads (potato, herring, etc).
At one time there were English menus, but they have disappeared. This leaves some fish selections and the occasional meat item translated alongside the Cyrillic on small cards taped along the counter. You’ll need to know exactly what you want, speak Russian or be able to read the Cyrillic alphabet … or you could just point.
Fortunately, getting the Uzbeki specialty could not be more simple. Styrofoam containers with plov written on top are stacked in front of a display case. Simply ask for it or pick it up, grab a beverage of your choice (perhaps the one with Tolstoy’s Pinocchio-inspired character Buratino on the label) and take it around the corner to the store check-out.
Since Tashkent is take-out only, you won’t find any place for you to eat your plov, which can be a problem if you don’t live in the area. One option is the short drive east on Chandler to the picnic tables at North Hollywood Park. Or you can simply dig in while sitting curbside in your car. We won’t judge.
Tashkent Produce, 5340 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; (818) 752-7222 .
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