Uzbek Plov

Plov is a central Asian dish made mostly from rice is cooked in a seasoned broth, called zirvak (Uzbek). Depending on the region it may also contain meat, fish, vegetables, pasta, and even dried fruits. In the east, plov is almost a daily staple but at the same time is served for special events like a wedding, funeral, child birth etc.

Since there are many regional differences, you’ll find different names like palov (Uzbek), Pilaf (the English term is borrowed from the Turkish pilav), pilafi (Greek), pulao ( Persian cuisine), palav (Tajik), palaw (Afghanistan), pilau, or polo.

Uzbek plov is one of the cornerstones of Uzbek cuisine. They have a dozens of different recipes and methods to make this dish. During the Soviet Union period, the Central Asian versions of the dish spread throughout all Soviet republics, becoming a part of the common Soviet cuisine. Uzbek plov commonly uses lamb or horse meat but can be substituted  with chicken or wild game.

Plov is usually cooked in a kazan (thick-walled cast iron, aluminum or copper dish) and cooked over an open fire. Oil is also very important and the best mixture is some sort of vegetable oil (sunflower, sesame or Cottonseed oil for example) and animal fat (like lamb or goat). Also most important for great plov is carrots and the type of rice used. In Uzbekistan they use yellow carrots for example. Uzbek plov differs from other preparations in that rice is not steamed, but instead simmered in a vegetables and meat stew (zirvak), until all the liquid is absorbed into the rice.

Plov is usually spiced with whole black cumin, coriander, barberries, red pepper, marigold, and pepper. Sweet variations with dried apricots, cranberries and raisins are prepared on special occasions.

When plov is ready, it’s usually presented as a small mound and topped with a head of garlic used when cooking. Along the edge garnish with vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.

Plov is one of the favorite dishes in our family, tender chunks of meat, fluffy rice with lots of aromatic flavors and spices, it’s so delicious even on the next day!

More photos for Uzbek Plov

Uzbek Plov Recipe

By Olya Sandstrom Published: December 21, 2015

  • Yield: 4-6 Servings
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 1 hr 10 mins
  • Ready In: 2 hrs 0 min

Plov is a central Asian dish made mostly from rice is cooked in a seasoned broth, called zirvak (Uzbek). Depending on the region it …



  1. Rinse thoroughly the rice, fill with water and leave for 30 minutes, then drain the water.
  2. Cut 2 large onions in half and then slice. Cut the carrot into medium strips. Cube the meat into medium-sized chunks. The small onion slice in half.
  3. To make plov, it’s best to use a thick pan to retain the heat. I use a cast iron pot for example.
  4. In a well-heated pan pour the oil (I also added a little bit of lard) and let it heat up. Put the halves of small onion in the oil, quickly fry until the onion is blackened, take it out, and then add the other onion slices.
  5. Fry over high heat, stirring all the time and cook until golden brown, then add the carrots, reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon onto another plate, and add a little more oil to the pan. When the oil is heated, add the meat and fry just to get a good crust. It’s important the oil is hot to sear quickly and not stew or steam the meat.
  7. Add the vegetables to the meat, stir, then add the spices: 1 teaspoon of cumin, a whole head of garlic cleaned from the top of the husk, and hot pepper. Add boiling water (~ 2.5 cups), reduce the heat and simmer without a lid for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the hot pepper and the garlic onto a plate, then salt and pepper the meat along with vegetables. Add the rice on top of the meat and vegetables and flatten. Be sure not to mix the rice and the meat together, it’s important to keep them on separate ‘levels’. Sprinkle the remaining cumin on top and gently pour the water on top of the rice. The water should cover the rice about 1-1.5 cm. Then place the garlic and pepper back on top of the rice. You can also add saffron and barberry if you like. Cover with a tight lid and simmer over very low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Check in the middle of cooking, if it is necessary to add a little bit more boiling water. If there is too much water, make a hole in the rice so the water evaporates more quickly.
  9. Important: For evenly cooked rice, gently turn it with a slotted spoon from the bottom up, but do not mix with the meat, only the rice.
  10. Check the readiness of rice after 20 minutes. If the rice is ready, turn off the heat and keep another 20-30 minutes under the lid. Only after that, you can gently stir the rice with meat and vegetables.
  11. You can serve plov different ways. One way is to spread it in layers on a large platter, first the rice, then vegetables with meat and the other is to mix the rice with meat and vegetables and garnish with garlic and hot pepper. Likewise be sure to add the fresh vegetables to the side.

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