A few words on the phenomenon of Uzbek flat cakes
Bread like that cannot be had anywhere else indeed. Numerous attempts have been made to bake it in Russia and distant foreign countries since the middle of the 20th century - with nothing to show for the effort. The unique taste was missing.
As the legend goes, the emir of Bukhara once tasted flat cakes from Samarkand, summoned the best Samarkand baker, and told him to bake flat cakes for him in Bukhara. The baker carried out the order and got a wrong taste for all his skills. The enraged emir demanded to know what the baker could say in his defense and heard the following reply, "It's the Samarkand air that is missing."
The role of the air is exaggerated, but there is a kernel of truth in the statement all the same. Baker is supposed to follow the traditional technology of course, but a great deal also depends on the place where he is working and on how skilfully he handles local water, dough, climate, and even the oven itself.
Obi-Non is the most commonly baked kind of flat cakes. They require ordinary dough and a special ferment that is only used for this kind of cakes. Obi-Non owes its distinctive flavor to the ferment. The yeast cultivated in this ferment is as unique as that used to bake the Borodino bread in Russia. No substitutes are allowed, in other words.
Making dough for Obi-Non, bakers use the special ferment bought in advance or make it with their own hands. Chopped onions and sour milk (this latter is made with its own special yeast) are added in thick meat broth with which dough is made. The dough is left alone then and diluted with warm water 16 hours later. All of it is left alone for between 4 and 6 hours again. Water is then added with some flour and the mass is permitted to ferment for another 40-minute period. It is only after this last fermentation period that cakes as such are formed by hand. Some of the ferment is left for later use. (Hamir-Kutush or a piece of dough is often used for the purpose.)
When dough is ready, it is divided into equal parts first shaped into spheres and then flattened by hand. Before flat cakes are put in the tandyr, their thin central parts are decorated with an ornament (a special tool known as Chekish is used for that). The ornament prevents deformation in the tandyr. Raw flat cakes are always sprinkled with the seeds of sesame, caraway, or poppy.
Scientists racked their brains but the task proved a sheer impossibility. No alternatives to hand-making were found. Fortunately, the whole idea was dropped. There is no saying what a ban to make flat cakes privately and sell them would have resulted in.
There are lots of kinds of flat cakes. Apart from the most commonly baked Obi-Non and Patyr (this latter is made of short pastry and mutton grease), there are numerous unique kinds. Baked but rarely, they even look exotic to the Uzbeks themselves. As a matter of fact, every region of Uzbekistan boasts of its own "specialty" baked only there - with unique ferments, technologies of baking, and flavors.
Gala-Osiegi-Non cakes from the settlement of Gala-Osie near Samarkand are famous far beyond the territory of their native region. Whoever comes to Samarkand always takes some cakes with him or her. Over 15 kinds of this cake are known, each of them using a complicated recipe and ferments that include cream or lactoserum with onion and sesame oil added.
The Ferghana Valley in its turn is famous for its Katlama cakes whose every layer is soaked in butter or sour cream.
There are also Jizzali-Non or cakes with cracklings, Zogora-Non (corn cakes), Kuk Patyr (herbal cakes), and many others.
Bread has always been regarded as a blessing in Uzbekistan. No wonder baskets with flat cakes used to be carried on the head throughout Orient once.