Pilaw (pilaf, pilaff, pilau, palov, plov) – is one of the most favourite Uzbek dishes. There are many kinds of pilaw, depending on the meat of which it is cooked – goat’s meat, mutton, horse meat, poultry and game. Also, there are various cooking methods. But the one ingredient that pilaw can’t be cooked without is rice.
The most widespread pilaw in Uzbekistan is called Uzbek pilaw, made by boiling vegetables and rice in the same cauldron. There’s another way of making pilaw in Bukhara (a city in Uzbekistan), called “Kabul” cooking method. The main feature of the method is to cook seasoning and rice in different cauldrons.
In spite of large differences between various methods of cooking pilaw there are three common consecutive techniques which are characteristic of the Uzbek cuisine.
- The first technique is overheating the fat or oil in an iron or cast-iron cauldron. In order to properly overheat cotton-seed oil or any other vegetable oil it is necessary to heat up the cauldron and then pour oil into it. First, dark smoke appears, a little later turning white. An onion put down into the oil neutralizes bitter substance that oil contains.
- Then mutton fat is cut into small cubes and melted down, cracklings are taken away from the cauldron and melted fat has to be heated up for about 5-7 minutes.
- The next step is to make zirvak (seasoning) and to braise meat with onions and carrots. It is an important step of the process. The products must be prevented from sticking to the bottom and sides of the cauldron.
Unlike with other dishes, water and salt is added to pilaw twice – into zirvak (seasoning) and after laying rice. Zirvak must simmer on low heat. Spices are added to zirvak after it has been stewed.
Rice should be laid upon zirvak after the seasoning is ready, but rice should not mix with zirvak while being stewed. Rice must lay on the surface of the seasoning lest it (rice) should stick to the cauldron’s bottom.
The amount of water matters as rice is laid in the cauldron.
After that rice should be salted to taste and cooked until ready.