Plov is ubiquitous with Central Asia. It is possibly the most common food in all five Central Asian ‘Stans. More than this, it is the single national dish of Uzbekistan, the most populous Central Asian republic, and the Central Asian country right in the middle. Of course, it is still very popular in the other four – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, but it is taken to the next level in Uzbekistan.
Firstly, for those who haven’t heard of plov before, it’s a rice dish similar to Biriyani or Pilaf. At its most basic, plov is rice with onion and carrots, plus either mutton or beef, cooked slowly in layers. However, it becomes so much more when quail eggs, horse meat sausage, sultanas, quince, turnip, peas, garlic, and many other ingredients are added. It can be quite oily and is very heavy and hearty.
In total there are more than 60 different types of plov, which are based both on regions such as Samarkand, Tashkent, Bukhara or Ferghana as well as for different events, whether it’s a wedding, a national holiday or just for a regular workday lunch.
Plov reportedly dates back to the 10 th century when it’s first referenced. One tradition for plov is that it should be consumed on a Thursday night before a husband goes home to his wife due to its aphrodisiac qualities, however it’s hard to imagine this is true as it’s such a heavy, hearty meal that you’ll just want to sleep.
Plov is usually accompanied by tea. In the north of Uzbekistan, the tea will be black, while through most of the rest of the country green tea is the order of the day. It might be strange to be drinking a hot drink with a hot meal in a hot country, but this is how the locals do it.
Here are a few different types of plov out of the more than 60 varieties:
Probably the most common and popular, although making any of these sorts of statements can cause arguments that will last days, or until everyone is tired from all the plov they’ve eaten. Fergana plov is also the heaviest as a lot of fat is used and the colour of the dish reflects the fat used as it’s much darker in colour. All of the vegetables and meat are fried in huge amounts of fat, before adding water and then rice. This means the rice is also cooking in a lot of the oil and absorbing the flavours of the meat and vegetables.
The main difference here is that they use yellow carrots and that the dish is much lighter. Samarkand plov also tastes sweeter due to the use of barberries. The meat and vegetables are still cooked in fat, but kept separate from the rice for much longer.
The meat and carrot are served on top of the rice instead of mixed through the rice like Fergana plov.
Khorazm Tuy Plov, also known as Bukharan Plov
This version of plov is quite unique due to one specific ingredient – raisins. Rather than cooking the meat and vegetables in oil first, the rice is boiled first and then the meat and vegetables are added later, meaning this version is less oily and the meat much softer. The raisins are added towards the end and add a lovely sweetness.
Kasily plov is much the same as the Fergana type of plov except this has Kazy on it. Kazy is a special spiced sausage made from horse meat. Sometimes it will just be rice, vegetables, and slices of Kazy on top, while at other times it will also have mutton or beef through the rice. The Kazy is always boiled separately to the plov and only added on top at the end.
A very unusual style of plov and probably the one that is the hardest to find. Like other types of plov it consists of rice cooked in fat with carrot and cuts of meat. However, what makes this special is that it is toped with vine leaves with mince meat wrapped inside. Similar to what the Greeks call dolmades or in many Middle Eastern countries – dolma, in Uzbekistan the vine leaf parcels are known by the Russian word golouptsi.
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