Plov is a main dish which is eaten by many ethnic groups in Turkmenistan. Some groups have their own variation of this recipe. An Oighur version can be found on the GlobaLearn site, under «Madina’s plov». Another variant includes dried apricots. The recipe below is closer to the Turkmen version, and it serves 6 to 10 people. I created this recipe based on cooking experiences which I had with Sonya Bagirova in Buzmein, and Gulya and Berdi Orazsohatov, in Bairamali, Turkmenistan. Many thanks to them for opening their homes, kitchens, and hearts to me.
At least 1 pound of carrots. The more carrots you use, the sweeter and richer the plov will be.
1 head of garlic
4 to 5 medium yellow or white onions
One to one-and-a half pounds of beef (get a cut with fat marbled through it—it’s much more tender when fried than the «lean» varieties).
Rice (not Minute rice—too dry)
Vegetable oil (preferably Canola oil. I don’t recommend olive oil—it
just doesn’t give it that traditional Turkmen taste. Turkmen plov uses cottonseed oil, which isn’t available in American stores.)
Chop the onions, fairly small (but not minced).
Cut the carrots into slivers. This can be time-consuming, because the
slivers should be about 3 inches long and only 1/8 of an inch wide. If you have some type of slicer, go for it! The important thing is that there
are no big chunks of carrot—just thin slices.
Cut the meat into 1 to 2-inch cubes.
Now for the fun part. Put on an old shirt or an apron, because soon the oil will
Find a big, heavy pan/pot (I use an 8-quart cast iron dutch oven). Turkmen use a heavy pot called a cazan.
Now, you must heat the oil in the pot. The amount of oil you use will depend upon the size of the pan you use. But I recommend that the oil be about 1 centimeter (almost 1/2
inch) deep. It will seem excessive, but go ahead and pour it in! Drop one little piece of your chopped onion in the oil, and turn on the burner to medium. When the onion turns BLACK, remove it with a fork. Now, your oil is hot enough to cook with.
Add the meat and the whole garlic cloves. Turkmen people often throw in the whole garlic head, skins and all. You can do that, or peel the cloves. (If you don’t cook much with garlic, don’t worry about it being too spicy—garlic sweetens as you cook it.) Cook the meat & garlic until the meat starts to turn a nice
«roasted»-looking brown, stirring occasionally (this should take about 7-8
minutes, maybe more).
Add the onions to the meat and oil. Cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots to the mixture and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add a couple teaspoons of salt (or you can add the salt later, to taste).
Now here’s where I deviate from the traditional method. (My apologies to purists). At this point, Turkmen would add rice and water into the pot with the meat. This method requires a lot of guesswork, and I still can’t seem to get it right. So, I recommend the following alternative.
Cook as much rice as you think will fit in the rest of your pot, according
to the directions on the bag of rice. For an 8-quart pot, I make about 7 cups
of rice (7 cooked cups—that’s about 3 1/2 dry cups). Just use your best
judgement as to the amount.
When the rice has finished cooking, add it to the meat/onions/carrots
mixture in the big pot. Mix it well, and serve it hot. It can be reheated,
Don’t be surprised if when you’re finished eating, there’s oil left on your
plate. If you’ve got that, your Turkmen cooking adventure has been