The many faces of plov
Ever since we hit Turkmenistan, the most common food available in restaurants has been plov, a combo of rice, grated carrots, finely chopped meat, some sort of fat (probably ghee or mutton fat) and sometimes various embellishments. It’s related to pilaf, pilau and the world’s many similar rice/meat dishes.
We’ve had countless versions of plov in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and now Kyrgyzstan. Some have been simple, some elaborate. Added ingredients have been grated turnip, raisins, sultanas, diced apricots, chickpeas and lentils. They’ve all been delicious.
The most deluxe plov and, by far, the most expensive, was served at a homestay in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Everyone was supposed to stay in a hotel/hostel in town, but the place the guide arranged had only 11 beds, so six of us were carted out—almost into the countryside—to the B&B owned by the fellow who runs the agency.
The plov was delicious, but he charged $10 a head for the dinner. The most we had ever paid for plov was about $3, so we agreed he figured we were ‘rich’ foreigners. Judging from his B&B house (also used as his summer home away from the city), he’s way richer than any of us.
Anyway, back to the plov. I finally bought a local cookbook in Kyrgyzstan—all the English-language cookbooks sold in the other Stans were just too touristy—which has a recipe for plov, along with ones for lagman and beshbarmak (both made of meat and noodles, with the latter being Kyrgyzstan’s national dish).
The same author has put out a second Kyrgyzstan cookbook, but I think she has stretched the recipes a bit far. I almost bought it for shock value, but the ingredients were just too daunting. I can’t imagine seeking out or cooking with sheep lung, cow udder, 500 grams of blood or any of the other ‘out-there’ items. That said, we’ve probably eaten some of these unmentionables. Poor John and I always go for the local dishes.
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