Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
The first few times I tasted the soupy lamb noodles known as lagman at Jibek Jolu, my tablemates and I voiced some muted skepticism that the noodles were really, as claimed, made in-house. Though thick and chewy, they seemed too uniformly perfect not to have been extruded or cut with some kind of machine. Though each time we were assured that this wasn't the case, it wasn't until last week, as I sat chatting with chef Anora Khudayberdeva, that I was convinced that not only is each order of noodles made on site, but each is hand rolled and hand pulled by her very self, a time-consuming but loving process that qualifies her one of the city's living culinary treasures.
Lagman is both the name of the noodles—surely derived from the Chinese la mian—and the dish itself, which though not strictly Kyrgyz in origin, is popular all over central Asia. At Jibek Jolu, Khudayberdeva sauces her noodles with sauteed lamb, onions, red and banana peppers, tomatoes, daikon, and long beans. Amp this up with a few dashes of the chile-garlic-paste lazy and you have one of the most special dishes in the city.
Khudayberdeva makes it look like ballet, a performance as fluid, graceful, and effortless as only someone who's been doing it for 40 years can pull off. First she cuts and rolls long thick ropes of dough, oils them, and lets them rest so they soften. Then she rapidly stretches each rope three or four time until the glutens in the dough are aligned and each continuous strand is about the thickness of udon. Just watch what happens next: