Plov is Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is plov. This national symbol of Uzbek food is prepared in every Uzbek family, whether ethnically Uzbek, Russian, Turkmen, Kazakh or a mix of all of the above. For Uzbeks, plov is art, is tradition, is love and is traditionally cooked by men.
Each Uzbek region takes pride in its own version of plov, so naturally it comes in thousands of types. For example, in Samarkand, people put meat, carrots and rice in layers and steam it. Bukharian Plov is usually cooked without meat but with raisins (although I’m sure that there are hundreds of varieties among Bukharian cooks).
I have fallen in love with this dish, so Matilda’s nanny (rightly) thought an Uzbek cook book would be the obvious gift for me. But, little did she know that a list of ingredients, a few hints, some instructions, and pictures are simply not enough to learn and master the art of cooking plov. After my first attempt to cook this dish, our nanny invited me and my family to her parent’s house to learn from a professional. Not her mom, not her dad, not her uncle. No, a master chef who prepares plov as an art for weddings, ceremonies, family gatherings and, I guess, German/Americans who want to learn from the best. So, here I am, the apprentice. I went, I saw, I learned, and I took notes. This was a cultural immersion, and I could not have asked for a better way to learn and taste the way of preparing this Uzbek dish. So, without further ado, here are my notes and some impressions of my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the apprentice of an Uzbek plov chef.
Uzbek Celebretary Plov (yield ~20 portions)
Wash rice 3kg three times
Cut 2kg beef into 6 chunks, salt
Carrots 3kg cut into strips
Cut onions 0,5kg
Vegetable Oil 1 l
Deep fry onions
Add meat in big pieces shortly after
Add carrots when onions are brown
Add 2ltr water, under line of carrots
Season with Turmeric, 1 tablespoon
Cook 1hr, add water as needed throughout cooking
Add layer of rice (lazor variety) on top, do not stir!
Check if there’s enough water underneath rice, add water if necessary
Mix only rice!
Add salt and cumin at the end, only to the rice!
Poke holes in rice, all the way to the bottom, to stop steaming of rice
When rice is cooked, stir, take out meat and cut, add meat back to plov, stir, serve and enjoy!