Thursday, October 25, 2018

Plov: Uzbekistan's National Dish

We recently went to Uzbekistan, a fascinating country full of history, great Islamic architecture and quite decent food. The national dish -- Plov -- is way better than decent, and our group was regaled with what seemed to have been a fine example.

Plov is a rice dish (think pilaf), and always consists of carrots, onions, chickpeas, garlic, meat, raisins or barberries and spices. Ours was spiced only with cumin, but sometimes paprika and hot peppers are added.

In Tashkent, at the wonderful Chorsu Bazaar, we saw women cutting carrots into batons and preparing other ingredients for Plov, including already soaked and boiled chickpeas.

Prepping yellow carrots for Plov in Tashkent's Chorsu Bazaar
In Samarkand, we saw a group of people (mostly men) making a typical Plov for a neighborhood event.

An outdoor Plov taking shape in Samarkand
However, it was not until we got to Bukhara that we got to eat our very own Plov, which we watched being prepared. The carrots, onions and lamb had been cooking for about an hour when we arrived for the final stages. Here is what it looked like as our hosts and guide explained what was to come next, starting with the four oils used in the dish: flaxseed (the dark one), sunflower seed, olive and a fourth that I can't remember.

Initial stage of Plov
Our hosts and our guide Anwar explain
The four oils used in Plov
The next step was to add the chickpeas, garlic and raisins and to season with generous amounts of cumin seeds.

With chickpeas, garlic and raisins added
And finally the rice, which must be added in a mound which is then made into a smooth covering of the meat and vegetables, brought to a boil and then simmered over a fire fed with twigs of a local bush.

Rice is added to the Plov, which is simmered until done
And voilà, delicious Plov.

Finished Plov
Note to self: for tour reunion, make Plov.

Bobby Jay

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