Plov

January 9th, 2010 Sections: Cuisine, Food and Drink

Plov, (pilaf), is found throughout Central Asia, but is really considered to be Uzbek in origin.

There are many different types of plov – and every region seems to have it’s own distinctive traditions.  Inhabitants of one region might well consider that you haven’t tasted plov until you have their own regional speciality.

Basically, however, there are some common rules as to the ingredients and rituals:

  • Rice: the basic, staple, ingredient … usually a brown rice, brushed back and forth with a swish of the hand in a shallow bowl to separate the grains from any “debris”, before it is rinsed. As with other Asian cultures, the rice is used as a “filler” – there is usually lots of it compared to the meat.
  • Carrots: cut into long, thin strips by hand – not grated.
  • Oil: cotton oil is preferred, not too much, just enough to give the rice a sheen and to prevent the grains sticking together or to the pan.
  • Onion: finely cut to give plenty of vitamins and minerals
  • Meat: lamb or mutton, even beef can be used.  (Meat is an essential ingredient … “without meat, it’s not plov”, “there is no such thing as a vegetarian plov”).
  • Garlic: whole cloves – steamed.
  • Safron: for colouring and flavour.

In some parts, raisins or other dried fruits may be added to give the dish a tangy taste.

In Uzbekistan it is traditional to eat plov with the fingers – not with cutlery.

Plov is usually served at the end of an evening and is a often a sign that the festivities are coming to an end.  There is a story that a nomad received guests and true to Kyrgyz traditional hospitality slaughtered a lamb and served Besh Barmak, then saw his guests to their bed.  The following day they stayed and he fed them again, and the next, and the next.  Eventually, afraid that he was being eaten out of house and home, he approached a local elder and asked for advice.  “Where are they from?”, the aksakal enquired.  “From the South, Osh”, came the reply.  “And have you fed them, and fulfilled all the obligations of hospitality?”  “Yes.”  “And have you served them plov?”  “No”.  “Well, tonight serve them plov”, the sage advised.  That night the nomad served plov – and the next day, the guests packed and left.

Recipe:

Ingredients: ½ kg meat (any meat), 1 onion, ½ kg carrots, 1 kg rice, water. Optional – some raisins)

Method: The meat is chopped into small pieces, about 2 cm cubes – then fried with the chopped onion. The carrots should be chopped into thin sticks and added to the meat. It should be well cooked.

The rice is washed thoroughly, then cooked in boiling water (about 1.5 times as much water than rice – by volume) in an open “kazan” (a sort of large, heavy saucepan), over a high flame. When the water has been absorbed, turn the flame down. Gather the rice in from the edges towards the centre into the form of a mound or hillock. Using a chopstick, make a number of holes in the rice and pour a little water into them so that it drains to the bottom. (If you are adding raisins, sprinkle them on the top). Cover the kazan and leave on a low flame for 15, 20 or 25 minutes (the time will depend on the quality of the rice).

When the rice is ready, mix in meat and vegetables, as in a risotto.

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