Uzbek pilaf

(also: plov, pilau, pilav plaf, plav and even palau)

Pilaf is one of traditional Uzbek dishes: tender pieces of meat and flavorful rice. If you try it once, you won’t wonder why this Uzbek dish is so popular in Russia. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it!

There are many varieties of pilaf recipe in Uzbekistan. As for me this one is the tastiest. The only thing I’ve changed here – I use pork instead of lamb or marble beef. If you want to gain authentic taste, you may take beef or lamb instead. But if you love pork the way I do, just follow my instructions. ;))

Though pilaf takes time, it’s really easy to cook. You may use a kazan, a casserole, a cauldron or even a big wok, whatever you have. The only condition: your cookware should have the capacity not less than 5 liters. Let’s start:

  • 1,5 kg of pork neck (or lamb, or marble beef) – the meat should contain fat
  • 1 kg of long-grained non-glutinous rice (I usually use the cheapest one or Jasmine rice. Basmati will be good too. Avoid parboiled and instant types of rice)
  • 600 g of carrots
  • 500 g of onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 3 tbsp of cumin
  • 2 tbsp of dried barberries
  • 0,5 tbsp of curcuma
  • 1 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp of salt
  • 75 ml of oil
  • ~300 ml of water
  • ~1,3 l of boiling water

If you use induction stove make sure that your pot has thick walls (f.e. ethnic kazan or Zepter pots suit this recipe). If it doesn’t, it may happen that your pilaf will be spoiled: rice grains that touch pot’s walls won’t cook through. If you have gas stove, there’s a chance that you’ll succeed in cooking pilaf in thin-walled pot or wok pan, if the gas embraces all the bottom of your pot.


1. Dice onions and carrots. Cut the meat in cubes ~3×3 cm.

2. Pour oil in a casserole, add onion and fry on medium heat until it becomes golden. If you use casserole, every time you stir the onion, remember to level it (so the bottom will be covered all the time).

3. Set the onion aside and add meat to a casserole. Fry ~5-10 min. Stirring occasionally. You don’t need to bring it to brown color.

4. Add diced carrots, level and leave it cooking for 5-7 min.

Spices for pilaf
It would be easier if you prepare spice mixture in advance

5. Add spices and 1,5 tbsp of salt. Stir, level and add 300 ml of water to cover the meat. Bring to boil, lower the heat (almost to minimum), cover and simmer for 45-60 min. You may stir the meat twice during this time. Sometimes I even don’t stir while cooking at low heat. But it will prevent the meat from burning and sticking to the pots bottom.

6. While the meat is cooking, you have time to wash rice. I must confess – I don’t do it. Why should one wash rice for pilaf? My Uzbek friends told me that it makes rice less sticky. You put the rice in a bowl, add cold water and move rice grains with hand. The water becomes white. You pour the water through colander (so the grains won’t escape). This procedure you should repeat at least 6 times until you reach clear water. Well, even after 6th time my rice was making water white (not that much as it was at first time, but still). That’s why I usually omit this step.

7. 15 min. before the meat is ready switch on the kettle – now we’ll need boiling water.

8. When the meat is ready, top it with rice, level the rice (so it builds a flat surface of rice). Don’t stir! Meat and rice shouldn’t be combined. Now it’s time to pour water: you should do it very gently, otherwise the stream will break rice layer. Usually I put a skimmer or a big plastic spoon on rice, put the kettle maximum close to the skimmer and pour the boiling water on it. The skimmer gently spreads the water around.

Remember to add last 1,5 tbsp of salt! Don’t forget this step. It’s very important, because you won’t be able to correct it later. Cover casserole then and cook at medium heat until the rice absorbs the water.

Rice for pilau is covered with water
Oil circles show that I wasn’t careful enough

9. Prepare garlic bulb – peel the outer layer and cut off roots. Cloves should stay covered.

Peeled garlic bulb for pilau
The way garlic bulb should be prepared

10. The rice absorbed the water – you see no trace of the water. It’s time to put garlic bulb in the middle and press it to cover with rice. Now you should dig 5-6 holes. I do it with handle of skimmer (it is long enough). Holes should me maximum deep and more than 1 cm. in diameter. So they won’t be ruined in 1 minute. Cover casserole and cook another 20-25 min. at medium-low heat.

Digging holes in pilau
Digging holes beware of the steam – don’t get burned

11. Leave pilaf for at least an hour. I usually cook pilaf in the evening, so it has a night to rest. I can’t explain why, but the next day pilaf always tastes better. Traditional Uzbek pilaf is served by layers (like it was cooked, but in reverse order) – firstly you place rice, then you top it with tender meat. Don’t throw away garlic bulb – it turns into very tasty garlic puree, one just needs to peel cloves.

Homemade Uzbek pilaf with garlic bulb

Cat craving for Uzbek pilau
My cat is ready to sell his soul to get a plate of the pilaf))

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