Cook yourself a Turkmen feast!

IMG_1379Here’s the recipe for a delicious meal called plov, a rice and meat dish that seems to be eaten widely in different forms all over Central Asia (this particular dish is listed as Uzbek). Although I have heard that Turkmen food is not super flavorful and that spices can be hard to come by, the cumin and cardamom are delightful here–the spice quantities seemed huge to me, but definitely put in as much as it asks for. I would also recommend using less rice. This recipe used lamb, but I think it would also be tasty with beef.

Zoe and Majken sure enjoyed their plov!


Uzbek Lamb Plov Pilaf (courtesy of

  • 4 cups long grain rice, I use Basmati, which is sold in burlap sacks at health food stores or farmer markets
  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 large onions
  • 2 lbs lamb meat – preferably leg or shoulder with some fat on it
  • 1/4 cup melted lamb fat or vegetable oil
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 3 heaping tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric or a pinch of saffron for color
  • 1/2 tbsp tarragon
  • 1/4 cup dried barberries (optional)
  • 1 large head of garlic, un-peeled
  • Rinse rice in cold water at least 7 times, pouring out all the water completely after each rinse; set aside
  • Boil water in a saucepan and add 2 tbsp salt to it; set aside
  • Cut up the lamb into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cubes.
  • Half and slice the onions 1/4 inch slices
  • Half lengthwise and slice or julienne the carrots
  • If you have fatty lamb pieces use those for melting out the fat, if not, use vegetable oil instead.
  • In a heavy bottom large pot or dutch oven heat the oil, or brown the fatty lamb pieces to get the fat out over high heat, until fat is smoky (but not burning)
  • Toss in all of the lamb and continue browning on all sides until pleasantly brown and stops sticking to the bottom.
  • You can either remove the meat now, or continue with the meat on the bottom.
  • Reduce heat to medium
  • Toss in onions and cook in fat until translucent, about 5-7 minutes, frequently stirring them
  • Toss in carrots, continue stirring
  • Add some of the remaining salt and half of the black pepper and paprika at this point
  • If you removed the meat earlier, now add it back and sprinkle some of the coriander and cumin over.
  • Stir for another 2-3 minutes
  • Fold out all the rice over the meat, onions and carrots, spread it evenly, don’t stir
  • Make a hole in the rice with a handle of a wooden spoon, and pour the water through that hole slowly, taking care not to disturb the bottom ingredients.
  • Water should cover the rice by not more than 1/2 inch. Better under-water it than over-water.
  • Reserve the remaining water, if you have any.
  • Leave the heat at medium
  • Cover the pot tightly and let rice steam through for about 15 minutes without opening the pot
  • After 15 minutes toss in the remaining spices and salt. Cover again and keep steaming
  • Cut the top off the garlic head, slightly exposing the garlic cloves. You’ll need to use some effort to do it.
  • Stick the garlic head (exposed side down) into the middle of the steaming plov, about 3/4 way and cover again.
  • Steam for another 10 minutes or so.
  • Check plov once in a while for doneness – the top grains should be slightly firm, and the bottom ones – well done, but not mushy.
  • All water should evaporate, but not burn.
  • If you feel your plov is not done yet, but water is gone, make holes in the plov with the handle of the wooden spoon – all the way through to the bottom, and pour remaining salty water into those holes. Don’t abuse this technique, because it’s very easy to overcook the plov this way. Use very little water at a time.
  • Remove from heat and stir with wooden spoon, bringing the bottom ingredients up to the surface.
  • Rice should be slightly sticky, but all grains should easily separate and not be easily mashed with a spoon. Meat should be tender and juicy, and vegetables should be all very tender.
  • Advertisements


    Filed under Uncategorized

    4 responses to “Cook yourself a Turkmen feast!

    1. this is exciting stuff which I will definitely attempt the minute I have access to some kind of real kitchen (in one week!) I think you will also be gadding about Turkmenistan by then, so I will think of you as I munch on plov. remember to watch All about my Mother !

    2. Zoe

      I was one of the lucky guests at Becca’s Turkmen Feast and can attest to her plov’s deliciousness. Thanks for a delicious dinner, great company, and, now, a new recipe, Becca!

    3. hai thanks for the tips and recipes that you wrote and I will try to make your recipe. thanks

    4. steve

      I spent 7 weeks in Turkmenistan in 1993, the taste of this recipe is what I remember from then – so delicious!!! I just made it using a shoulder cut of lamb and I did the garlic the way I remember, which is separating and skinning the cloves and then pushing them down in the rice after the water is cooked off the top. It seems like I remember some other ingredients as well – cinnamon? cardamom pods? pine nuts? Oh well, it was good without them.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s