Plov – delicious and simple Uzbek treasure (recipe included)

Pilaf (or pilav, pilau, plov, pulao, polu and palaw) is a rice dish that is cooked in a broth. Depending on its origin, it can be accompanied with meat, fish, vegetables, dried fruits or nuts. This method of cooking rice is widespread across the globe, and has often been featured on 196 flavors.

It is found in many typical recipes in the Balkans, Middle East (Saudi Arabia or Oman), Latin America and the Caribbean (Panama, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominican Republic) and Asia (India with its biryanis).

One of the earliest references of pilafdates back to the time of Alexander the Great in the 3rd century BC. When he visited the province of Bactria (Eastern Iran), he was served pilaf at a royal banquet. It is said that the soldiers of Alexander the Great then brought the method of preparation of pilaf to Macedonia, and this method then spread out throughout Greece.

Uzbek Plov

The first person who documented the modern preparation method of pilaf was a Persian scholar known by the name of Abu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna). He used to include recipes in his medical books in the tenth century of our era. Uzbeks and Tajiks consider Ibn Sina as the father of modern pilaf.

Since then, the pilaf has spread across the Middle East and has been adapted by the Persians, Arabs, Turks and Armenians. It was introduced in Israel by Bukharan Jews and Persian Jews.

The Central Asian country of Uzbekistan has long been part of the Persian Empire. It was subsequently incorporated into the Russian Empire until its independence in 1991. The 30 million people in the country speak Uzbek, which like Azerbaijani and Kazakh are part of the Turkic languages. These colonizations have obviously influenced Uzbek cuisine.

Uzbek plov differs from other preparations in that rice is simmered in a broth of meat and vegetables called zirvak until the liquid evaporates. The most common variants are the plov with lamb or mutton, while the chicken is most popular in the region of Bukhara. In Tashkent, yellow carrots replace orange carrots.

Some features make this dish a little different from other pilaf recipes, such as the addition of barberries also called berberis in Arabic or zereshk in Persian. Also, the addition of chickpeas (optional) provides additional some delicious richness to the plov.

Plov is traditionally cooked in a kazan, a sort of large cat iron pot, over an open fire, but cooking in a dutch oven over a gas flame will work just fine. Also, it is possible to save time by cooking the meat first in a pressure cooker.

Plov was a huge hit at home. This dish will probably make it to my top 10 recipes of our first world tour. It is quite easy to prepare and includes everything to make it a rich and nutritional dish (meat, vegetables, dried fruits, rice). A must!

Recipe of Plov

Preparation time : 20 minutes
Cooking time : 70 minutes

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

    2 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes
    2 cups basmati rice
    2 heads of garlic, whole
    2 large onions, thinly sliced
    4 large carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
    2 tablespoons cumin seeds
    2 tablespoons coriander seeds
    1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    1/2 cup barberry (zereshk)
    2 cups boiling water (or vegetable broth)
    2 tablespoons of salt
    2 tablespoons oil



Place the basmati rice in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.

Wash the garlic heads. Cut the top of the heads (1/4 inch). Set aside.

Toast cumin, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a pan for a few minutes.

Grind in a mortar or spice grinder. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan over high heat. Add the lamb, turning occasionally until the lamb is evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the lamb pieces and set aside.

Stir in onions and cook, until onion is soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in carrots and cook, until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the lamb and mix.

Sprinkle the mixture of cumin, coriander, peppercorns and add the barberries.

Add the whole garlic heads, stirring to distribute the ingredients. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Wash and drain the basmati rice in hot water. Pour the rice over the lamb mixture in an even layer.

Slowly pour the boiling water (or vegetable broth). The rice should be covered with about 1/2 inch of water. Do not stir.

Season with salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Mix the ingredients as you serve the dish on a platter. Garnish with the garlic heads.


Copyrights: (c) 196 Flavors, via

Author: (c) Mike Benayoun for

Photo: (c) Conde Nast Traveller Russia

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