Making Plov, Central Asia’s Favorite Food

Making Plov, Central Asia’s Favorite Food

Plov is king of Central Asian cuisine. It’s a seasoned rice dish with meat, veggies, currants, and spices – each plov recipe a slightly different variation from country to country. What comes to mind when you think of this Silk Road plov are wedding feasts, family celebrations, and the springtime Islamic New Year’s holiday, Navruz, where a platter of plov is the highlight on every table.


Making PlovPlov looks simple to make, but is quite time-consuming, with considerable chopping of meat and vegetables, and several hours of simmering. There are dozens of recipes and variations of plov. The batch of plov below was cooked up for 200 people at the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association’s annual summertime picnic – a crowd-sized batch of plov with stunning quantities of ingredients, starting with 50 pounds of lamb.

Uzbekistan's signature dish, <i>plov,</i> typically includes rice, lamb, currants, garlic, onions, carrots, and spices <br />  Photo credit: Helen Holter

Uzbekistan’s signature dish, plov, typically includes rice, lamb, currants, garlic, onions, carrots, and spices
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Cook meat in a kazanBegin with a special cast-iron pot called a kazan for cooking authentic plov. In Central Asia the meat is typically mutton, since sheep are in abundance throughout this region. Sauté the cubed meat – typically  in lots of oil, then add whole cloves of garlic; don’t skimp on this. Simmer for about 1.5-2 hours, then drain the fat into a separate bowl.

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Add vegetables: Meanwhile chop carrots and onions; rinse the white rice several times, then add currants. Heat ½ of the reserved fat and sauté the onions until soft, adding in spices such as cumin, coriander, and star anise, and then the carrots.

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Simmer and mingle: Add the rice, currants, chickpeas, and all remaining reserved fat; cover with vegetable stock, and let it simmer until the liquid is completely absorbed – about 11 minutes. This time is important for mingling all the flavors together. It’s a good time to mingle with others as well, enjoying conversation and cups of tea.

(click on photo for larger version)


Stir-stir-stir: Now it’s time to stir the plov, mixing all the ingredients thoroughly. Either mix in the meat or arrange it on top of the platter of plov. Finally, it’s ready to eat!

No dainty serving spoon here; this Uzbek picnic <i>plov</i> is dished out with a large ladle <br />  Photo credit: Helen Holter

No dainty serving spoon here; this Uzbek picnic plov is dished out with a large ladle
Photo credit: Helen Holter


Serving Plov Except for a casual picnic like this one, plov must be beautifully presented in all its culinary splendor. A large ceramic platter painted in traditional Central Asian patterns – called a lagan – is typically used, with the mixed plov rice shaped into a high mound. Sometimes pieces of lamb and garlic are spread atop the mound, then sprinkled with finely chopped parsley.

In more formal settings, <i>plov</i> is elegantly mounded on <i>lagans,</i> Uzbek hand-painted plates

In more formal settings, plov is elegantly mounded on lagans, Uzbek hand-painted plates

Since plov takes so much time to make, it is usually served in the evening for dinner. Typically accompanying plov are side dishes of a tomato-onion-cucumber salad called achik-chuchuk, pomegranate salad, and fresh fruits. Round flat bread stamped with local designs is part of the dinner ritual as well, torn into pieces and shared with those at the table. Of course, no Central Asian meal is complete without a cup of tea; both green and black are served.

“Yoqimli ishtaha”– Uzbek for “Good appetite!”

<i>Plov</i> is traditionally served with <i>achik-chuchuk,</i> a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and spices <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Plov is traditionally served with achik-chuchuk, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and spices
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Patiently waiting for <i>plov</> at a special luncheon in Tashkent, Uzbekistan <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Patiently waiting for plov at a special luncheon in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Helen Holter


Travel with MIR to Central Asia, Eating PlovYou can taste this popular plov dish almost anywhere you go in Central Asia on MIR’s scheduled tours to the region.  MIR can also handcraft a travel itinerary specific to your individual interests, including cooking classes on how to make plov, as well as other Central Asian dishes.

By the way, if you prefer making plov for a smaller crowd – perhaps 8 – try this

 (Top photo credit: Helen Holter – Plov is mounded high for a festive luncheon in Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

PUBLISHED: February 11, 2015

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