05 February 2014

In Defense of Plov

I've been reading a book where the author, a Chinese-American chef, is traveling through Central Asia.  Since she's moving through places quickly and arranged things far China, she's treated as a guest in most places she visits.  And that means she's eating lots and lots of plov.

And, as it turns out, one plate of plov would have been enough for her.  By the end of her road through several of the Stans, she's heartily sick of plov and keeps saying so. I can understand this.  It can be boring to eat something similar over and over. Non-Central-Asians complain about the prevalence of plov all the time in Central Asia.

But plov is Central Asia's guest food and its comfort food.  Just like you could expect to be served meat and potatoes in the US (although this is finally changing) or congee for breakfast in China, you can expect to be served plov when you're a guest in someone's home, or at any event.  We're not necessarily any more creative with our food, so I don't think it's really fair to complain about plov being everywhere in Central Asia.

Plov makes sense too.  Rice isn't cheap in Central Asia, but it's not prohibitively expensive for many people.  Plov is also great company food because you get a nice dish for relatively little effort.*  I usually make plov for guests now** just because it's so easy, and it leaves plenty of time to clean up the kitchen before anyone arrives. And it really is comfort food.  When I've not been feeling well and just need something simple and delicious, I don't turn to traditional American comfort food anymore.  I just want plov.

*I think this is really important.  Central Asian women have an incredible amount of work to do and I'll never begrudge anyone making plov for me instead of something far more time-consuming. Also, its timing is flexible and if your guests are late, the plov won't be ruined.

**In Central Asia, I'd make a Pakistani pulao when I had Kyrgyz or Uzbeks over for dinner. It was still familiar, but no one would compare it to their plov, which was always better than mine.  Of course.

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