My first encounter with Lagman (Uzbek Lamb Noodle Soup) was at the now defunct Uzbekistan - Los Angeles. At the time, I dismissed it as a basic beef stew with similar Chinese noodles. Seven years later, after having explored other Central Asian cuisines, I hope I've become less cavalier of other cuisines in general, but of Central Asian cuisines in particular.
I try to place new cuisines into what's familiar, and would describe Uzbek and other Central Asian foods as a cross between Chinese Islamic and Middle Eastern cuisines. Which, if you think of the former, is already a confluence of two different cuisines.
If lagman seems familiar, that's because the word is derived from lamian (Chinese hand-pulled noodles). The Uzbek version is thicker, similar to Japanese udon, but much more tender. I stumbled upon a package of Shanghai home-style noodles at the grocery store, which looked so very homemade that I couldn't resist buying it so I could experiment. If you can't find Chinese hand-pulled noodles, then I'd suggest substituting with udon or even fettuccine.
Now, as for the lamb or beef stew portion of the soup, I knew there was an undefinable something that made Uzbek lagman stand apart. A little Googling and I found a lagman recipe from Bois de Jasmin that mentioned kala jeera (Indian black cumin). I debated whether to be lazy and substitute with regular cumin, but hauled myself off to Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine - San Gabriel and luckily found a package in stock. One whiff of the smoky aroma and I knew it was worth the trip. No, regular cumin is not remotely similar to black cumin. I would omit it if you can't find any, but if you can, oh, does it add that something.
I find lamb to be quite gamey, unless it's rack of or thinly sliced for hot pot. So I used a combination of the latter with some venison my dad had shot. Regular beef is perfectly fine to use in this soup as well. The lagman I had at Varzoba Kafejnica - Riga - Latvia was described on the menu as a tomato soup, of which I had plenty from my garden. You can cut the vegetables into a thick julienne or dice them as I have. And lastly, as these are fresh noodles, don't add the noodle to the soup. Rather, boil the noodles separately, and spoon the stew over the soup.
I looked through my photos of the lagman I ate at Varzoba Kafejnica and was struck by the artful plating of the bright blue bowl atop a blue plate. Rummaged through my kitchen cabinets for something similar and I have to say the plating made my Uzbek lagman look so much more tempting, don't you think?