PATTAYA — Buttery, steaming lamb pilaf, juicy manti dumplings, springy lagman noodles, all washed down with sweet berry kompot – all are delicious and palatable, even to tongues unfamiliar to Central Asian cuisine.
For five years, Caravan has been serving Central Asian and Russian food in Pattaya, mostly frequented by expats from that region. But at a recent unannounced visit to Caravan, even Thais in our party most resistant to the lamb-based exotic cuisines enjoyed every dish we tried.
Most Thais’ concerns about eating lamb are a gamey odor (คาว), but from kebab to stew, there was not a whiff of it, with Caravan’s authentic tastes still appealing to Thai tongues.
“Pilaf is the best,” Zamira said, and she wasn’t bragging. The Uzbek Pilaf (280 baht) is a fragrant dish of rice peppered with garbanzo beans and soft lamb grilled to perfection.
Owner Albert Shunkarov, Zamira, and their son Arslan are very welcoming, and helped make recommendations while we ordered and even blasted some traditional Uzbek music, Didula music videos, and Russian rap by Miyagi on the smart TV.
The Manti (280 baht for four) were large dumplings in thin dough filled with juicy ground beef with a bit of soup with them, the translucent fried onions on top complimenting the filling.
The menu specifies which dish belongs to which cuisine, ranging from Uzbek to Russian to Uyghur to Ukranian to Kazakh to Armenian as well as Korean food. Korean food is present in Uzbekistan due to the diaspora of Koreans across Central Asia.
Hard to find anywhere else in Thailand is Uyghur cuisine, such as lagman (260 baht) is a filling soup full of thick, hand-pulled noodles filled with lamb and tomato, or the Kazakh dish of beshbarmak (320 baht), where large flat dough strips are topped with cooked meat and onions.
Russian meat dumplings (180 baht) are bite-sized pelmenis that can be dipped with sour cream, dill, gojuchang, even the sauce that comes with the kebab, or shashliks. Even those in our party normally averse to lamb cleaned off the Lula Kebab (300 baht) two larged skewers of grilled minced lamb.
Giving the meat dishes a doughy oomph was our order of the Flatbread Caravan (60 baht), an Uzbek-style bread and Samsa with Meat (160 baht), two large puff pastries filled with juicy minced lamb and onion.
Orama (220 baht) is a Kazakhstan dish of steamed thin dough stuffed with minced beef and potatoes, topped with tomato sauce. Someone at our table compared it to a non-pasta lasagna.
The bill came out to only about 2,000 baht, with seven full bellies. Zamira presented us with a complimentary slice of light, fluffy medovik honey cake. A glass of fruit kompot (60 baht) acted as a great palate cleanser between any dish.
Diners sit in suede red booths, decorated with embroidered Uzbek pillows and plates. The family say dancers are hired for holidays and parties important to Russian and Central Asian expats, especially for the New Year. A large party room can hold at least 20 people on the second floor.
“We are waiting for you for New Year’s,” Aslan said. Wanting a souvenir, we purchased a kilo of pelmenis to bring home and remember the trip by.
This review is unsponsored and we paid for the meal ourselves on an unannounced visit.