20 March 2012

Photo(s) a Day, March 20 or How to Make Plov

So I decided to try the trendy thing and do a recipe with photos.  Standard disclaimers about the pathetic camera and all that.

Plov is a traditional rice dish, usually with meat, vegetables, and sometimes fruit.  This is a really simple plov and it's not quite traditional because it doesn't have meat.  If you want to add meat, slice some and fry it first before adding the onions.  

First, a discussion about the rice.  Please don't use wimpy basmati.  It's delicious in a lot of recipes, but it's not right for plovs from this part of Central Asia.  Persian pilaus, yes.  Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uyghur, and Uzbek plovs/palous?  No.

You can just use plain old American long grain.  Arborio can be nice, although it can get a little sticky.  Don't use something like jasmine.  Honestly, though, plov works pretty well with the plain old rice you have in your cupboard.

The best rice ever is the one pictured below, a type of parboiled Pakistani rice. Don't think parboiled=minute rice.  Minute rice might be parboiled, but parboiled isn't necessarily minute rice.  The Pakistani rice I use always cooks separate and firm, like basmati, but it's not at all delicate. 

And the oil.  I always just use vegetable oil (and it's usually sunflower here).  Olive oil isn't right for this dish, although if you've never eaten it, you'd never know, would you?  If you have some sheep's-tail fat, use that. :)

A basic Kyrgyz/Kazakh plov isn't going to have any or many spices, probably.  Uzbek and Uyghur plovs will.  There are spice mixes for plov here, but I don't use those because I can't get them in the US and I don't want to get hooked.  I like to have some seasonings, so I add about 1/2 tablespoon of cumin, 3/4 tsp of coriander, 1/2-1 tsp red pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and 1/2 tsp nigella/sedana/black onion seed. 

You'll need:

2-2.5 cups white rice (see above)
Oil (see above)
1 large onion
2 fat carrots
1 head of garlic
Salt to taste (at least 2 teaspoons)
Spices (see above)
1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste, if you want
Hot or boiling water

First, wash your rice.  Get your hand involved with washing it.  Mine was, except when I was taking the picture because I don't have three hands.  If you have time, you can soak it too, or just let it drain while you're getting the vegetables ready.

Chop up your onion and start frying it in a qazan or cast iron skillet or a heavy pot or whatever other pot you have.  And add some oil.  I've seen people use a cup of oil for this amount of plov, but that seems a little much.  You can use as much or as little as you like.  2-3 tablespoons is what I use.

Chop up the carrots.  They're nice and fat here so you can slice them like this.

Throw the carrots in with the onions and continue frying.

Take off the outer layers of the head of garlic and separate the cloves, but don't peel them.  Rinse and throw in the pot.  This is not gross.   Continue frying till the carrots and onions and soft and golden.

There are a couple of ways to do the next part.  You can add the water, spices and tomato paste if you're using them, and the salt and bring the whole thing to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, and then add the rice.  I usually do it the other way around and add the rice to the vegetables and mix (some don't mix, but I do), and then add the water and tomato paste (I forgot the tomato paste till later in the photos).

Whatever you do, don't add too much water (this is why I add the water after the rice).  If you were able to soak your rice for a while, you'll probably just barely cover the rice.  Barely.  If the rice just sat there while you were getting the vegetables ready, then you'll want to add more- maybe 1/2 inch above the level of the rice.  You can always add more water if you need to, but you can't save soggy rice, and plov is not supposed to be soggy.  Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for a few minutes.

When the water has boiled away enough that you can poke a spoon handle into the rice and leave a hole (not sure if you can see this in the photo), cover the pot and lower the heat.  I don't turn it as low as possible because we like the edges to get a little burnt and crispy.  That's popular in some places, but not in Kyrgyzstan.  It takes practice to figure out where you need to set your stove, especially if it's electric.

Cook/steam for at least 30 minutes (this is why you don't want too much water), or longer if you want to get a crust.  Remove from the heat and let it sit for a bit, especially if you have a crust.  Remove the lid and gently loosen and fluff the plov and carefully rescue all the cloves of garlic and put them in a bowl.  People who like them can pop the cloves out of the skin and eat the garlic with their plov.  It's nice to serve this on a large dish with the garlic and meat (if you used it) on top.
I like plov with vinegary vegetables (we had cabbage last night, of course), or with carrot salad. It's really good in the summer with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes. It's easy to make this more about the vegetables than the rice, if you want to.


  1. I'm going to try it! Thanks, I've been wondering what the heck plov is.

  2. I hope you like it and I hope I typed the recipe right. :)

  3. AnonymousMay 13, 2012

    I like your writing. They are really funny. I smiled as I read.