Artist and fashion designer Ilana Efrati remembers eating this dish at memorial gatherings for members of her family’s Bukharian community. In Bukharan tradition, these meals are meant as a way to celebrate the person who has passed away. “It’s another [way] of thinking about death,” Ilana explains. It is a celebration of life.
In some Bukharian homes oshi bakhsh is prepared by first sautéeing the meat in oil and then adding water. Ilana and her family prefer to cook the ground lamb in water from the beginning for a more tender result. Pomegranates give this a seasonal touch that’s wonderful around Rosh Hashanah.
Read more about Ilana and her family in “Six Generations of Bukharan Cooks Celebrate the Flavors of Samarkand“ on the Jewish Food Society’s archive.
1 ¼ pounds ground lamb
2 cups water
2 bunches cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch mint leaves, finely chopped
¼ – ½ cup olive oil
1 ½ cups basmati (or other long grain) rice, rinsed and drained
2 to 3 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
- Place the lamb meat into a large pot over medium heat and add 2 cups of water. Cook the meat, breaking and crumbling it frequently with a wooden spoon until it is cooked, about 10 minutes.
- Add the cilantro, mint, and olive oil, and mix evenly. Add the rice and salt and stir well. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pot with a small kitchen towel or paper towel and place the lid above the towel. Reduce the flame to low and cook until all the liquids are absorbed and the rice is done, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- To serve, transfer the oshi bakhsh into a wide serving platter and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, mixing some into the rice and sprinkling the rest of the pomegranate seeds on top. Serve the oshi bakhsh hot with some lemon wedges on the side.