A journey down the Silk Road to Rego Park, Queens
Cheburechnaya, located on 63rd Rd in Rego Park, Queens is a restaurant that serves Bukharian Jewish food. It is open Sunday to Thursday from 10am to midnight. Along with a majority of the stores in Rego Park, this restaurant closes on the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
For many New Yorkers, venturing to outer Queens is equivalent to a journey down the Silk Road
- long and arduous but filled with myriad cultures, spices and sites to be seen.
Eight to fifteen stops on the train (express or local - camel cart or horseback) from midtown Manhattan lies Rego Park, home to the largest population of Bukharian Jews
outside of Isarel. Bukharian Jews are a distinct ethnic group from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, predominantly Muslim countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. After decades of having their religion repressed from both powers, in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell, the majority of Bukharian Jews immigrated to the United States and Israel.
The mass numbers of retail stores, grocery stores, and restaurants in Rego Park that cater to the population dominates Queens Blvd. Visiting these establishments, and especially the restaurants, gives a strong sense of the multifarious influences on the Bukharian culture.
, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are surrounded by China, Russia, Afghanistan and Iran. Elements of all of these countries and cultures, as well as a sense of Jewishness, are evident in the food.
on 63rd Dr. in Rego Park, is owned by Tajikistan-born Simon Sionov and is a testament to the history, geography and culture of the Bukharian Jews.
Large parties come to eat at Cheburechnaya on a nightly bases. The customers are primarily Bukharian Jews. The waitresses are from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia. The main language of communication is Russian, but many of them speak the Bukharian dialect that has elements of Tajik, Farsi, Russian, Hebrew, and Uzbek.
Rabbi Israel Steinberg visits the restaurant every week to make sure that the preparation and cooking of the food follows Jewish Kosher law.
The influences in Bukharian food spans religion and geographic location. One can expect to find these type of items on the menu: Islamic kebabs, Chinese dumplings and Russian dough pastries, all spiced with key South Asian flavors.
One of the specialty dishes at the restaurant is the Chebureki - a dough pastry filled with spiced meat or vegetables and fried until crispy.
The production line for the Pelmeni, a boiled bite size dumpling with ground beef that is served in a spiced broth.
Nadia Sionov, the mother of the restaurant owner takes a phone call break while she sits in the kitchen and prepares food. Like many Jewish mothers, Bukharian Jewish mothers like to cook in mass quantity.
Staff meal remains half eaten while the waitresses run the front of the house to serve the many customers. The soup, Lagman, contains a hand-pulled dough noodle and various spices, to be accompanied with a piece of traditional circular bread and pilov, spiced rice.
When mother of the restaurant owner, Nadia Sionov is not preparing food in the back, she occupies a table on the floor to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Decorations at Cheburechnaya consist of Muslim style ceramics, Jewish religious items, Middle Eastern “evil-eye” talismans, and several large screen TVs that blast pop music from the region.