Azerbaijan International

 Autumn 2000 (8.3)

Rice Pilaf


Ask Azerbaijanis what their most important dish and, undoubtedly, they'll tell you "plov", the king of Azerbaijani cuisine. In Southern Azerbaijan (in Iran), rice is served on a daily basis. In the Azerbaijani Republic, however, plov (often referred to as "ash") is presented as the grand finale to special meals, such as at weddings, birthday parties, special dinners, family gatherings and even funerals. In the Republic, pilaf is not just an accompaniment to other dishes. The pilaf is served on a large platter and topped with melted butter. Rice mixed with saffron provides a bright golden decorative garnish on top. In the Republic of Azerbaijan, it's very popular to serve pilaf with meat, prunes, raisins and chestnuts.

There are more than 100 different kinds of plov. Some of the most popular kinds include: chicken plov, shuyud plov (chopped dill), kishmish plov (raisins), sudlu ash (milk), giyma plov (finely chopped meat, potatoes and yellow split peas), sabzi plov (greens) and fisinjan (pomegranate syrup, walnuts and chicken).

Making the perfect plov requires care and experience - like a fine science. There are many variables: timing, temperature, the proportion of rice to water, the size and thickness of the pot and the quality of the rice. The type of rice used is usually the long-grain basmati-style rice, which they are starting to grow again in the Lankaran region, in the south of Azerbaijan. To keep the rice from burning, some cooks place a thin layer of lavash bread or potatoes in the bottom of the pan. This becomes gazmag ("tadig" in Farsi), the crunchy delicacy that many consider to be the best part of the plov. In this photo, the rice has been garnished with pieces of gazmag made of dough.


From Azerbaijan International (8.3) Autumn 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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