Food Stories | Legendary Dishes | Pilaf / Pilavi / Plovar (rice with various ingredients)


Plovar, rice dishes from central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, became the favourite food of the Turks and not wanting to be upstaged by their neighbours the Greeks also adapted it into their traditional diet.

The Turks called it pilaf after the Persian pilaou, meaning boiled rice, and a culinary legend was gradually introduced to Europe.

If you didn’t know better, you’d be fooled into believing that pilaf served in Greece and Turkey is authentic plov. Since the opening up of the Eurasian region that has changed dramatically.

The truth is out. Genuine plov is a whole different bowl of rice.

Şirin Plov (sweet)

Increasingly popular around Europe as a vegan dish, the sweet plov known as shirin is also served in Baku with fried meat.

1 kg basmati rice
1 litre water
300 ml butter, melted
120 g sugar
80 g apricots / dates, sliced
80 g flour 
80 g prunes, halved
80 g raisins
1 egg, beaten  
Salt, pinch 
Oil, for frying
Water, for qazmaq (dough for cooking base)

Parboil the rice in salted water.

Fry fruit, except prunes, in butter, add sugar.

Make a qazmaq with egg, flour, rice and a few splashes of water. Dough should be soft.

Combine fruit and rice.

Roll out the qazmaq dough to the diameter of the rice pan.

Pour thin layer of oil into pan, lightly fry qazmaq.

Spoon fruit-rice mixture on top of the qazmaq.

Cover and leave to cook over a gradual heat for an hour.

Serve in the shape of a dome, decorated with prunes.


Balıqlı Plov (fish)

1 kg fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 kg rice
2 onions, sliced 
200 g butter
200 g butter, melted
200 g salt
200 g soured cornelian cherries
5 g turmeric
Water, for rice

Soak 45 g of rice in a little water with the turmeric. Leave overnight.

Soak remaining rice in salted water, drain. Steam rice in just enough water to half cook it. Fry par-cooked rice and turmeric rice in butter. Mix rice with onions.

Place fish in the bottom of a large pot, cover with rice and onion mixture, cherries and melted butter.

Cover and cook over a low heat for an hour.

Serve with flat bread.


Çolpalı Plov (cockerel)

1 kg cockerel, boiled, cut into pieces
1 kg rice
200 g onions, sliced
100 g oil
20 g cornelian cherries, stoned
5 g salt 
2 g saffron
Milk, for rice
Water, for rice

Soak 45 g of rice in a little milk with saffron.

Soak rice in salted water for three hours, parboil and drain.

Fry parboiled rice and saffron rice in oil.

Fry chicken in oil, add onions and cherries.

Arrange rice in a large pot, layer with chicken, onions and cherries, cover and heat gently over a low heat for an hour.


Səbzi Plov (beef)

500 g beef
500 g rice
300 g onions, sliced
200 g oil
50 g fennel bulb, sliced
50 g leek, sliced
30 g salt
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch sorrel 
1 bunch tarragon 
5 g lemon salt
5 g saffron
Black pepper, pinch
Plums, for garnish

Cook rice in salted water over a very low heat for three hours, drain, keep warm.

Fry onions.
Boil beef, cut into slices, fry in oil until crisp.
Fry rice in oil, add saffron near the end.
Combine the rice, meat, onions, herbs, greens and seasonings in a bowl. Invert and garnish with plums.


Qarası aş (black)

1 kg lamb / beef, sliced, boiled in salted water
500 g chestnuts
500 g onions, sliced
300 g apricots, dried
300 g Albukhara plums
300 g oil
300 g prunes 
300 g raisins 
15 g salt
Black pepper, large pinch
Turmeric, large pinch

Fry onions, set aside.

Individually fry apricots, albukhara, prunes and raisins.

Layer in a large pot in the following order – meat, onions, prunes, chestnuts, Albukhara plums, apricots, raisins, colouring and seasoning – and cook gently until rice is ready.

1 litre water
1 kg rice
200 g butter, melted
100 g raisins
60 g salt
Turmeric, large pinch

Parboil rice in salted water.

Fry raisins.

Combine rice, raisins and turmeric in a large pot. Add butter, cover and heat gently for an hour.
Serve with meat and assortments.


Qatıqlı aş (yoghurt)

500 g rice
200 g green beans, boiled until al dente, chopped
200 g yoghurt
80 g butter
80 g green herbs, chopped
Flour, for umac 

Parboil rice in salted water, drain.

Combine herbs, flour and a little water to make umac paste. Lay this in the bottom of a pot.

Mix beans and rice with the yoghurt, place on top of the umac, cover and cook over a very low heat for an hour.

Serve with yoghurt.

Düğün Pilavi

The Turkish Düğün Pilavi is made similarly, with chickpeas, and with lamb. When lamb or mutton is required, use 500 g cubed, simmer in hot water for ten minutes, then fry until a crust has formed on the meat. Cook chickpeas in half the stock until al dente, add the meat, then the rice.


Bulgur Pilavi

The Turks adore pilaf and will make countless versions with different ingredients, methods and results. Some are steamed, others are baked, and it is not unusual to see a pilaf used as stuffing or encased in a pastry. This is their cracked wheat pilaf, which is also served in borek pastry parcels.

800 g bulgur
800 ml water / meat stock
200 ml olive oil / vegetable oil
100 g butter
6 onions, chopped
15 g coriander/mint, fresh, chopped
Salt, pinch
Pepper, pinch

In a heavy-based deep saucepan, sauté onions in butter and oil until they are golden-brown.

Add bulgur, sauté for 30 minutes over a low to medium heat, making sure the onions do not burn.

Pour water or stock onto bulgar, season, cover and cook over a medium heat until the grains have absorbed the liquid.

Continue to cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes.

Stir to loosen grains and serve in a large bowl.

Season with pepper, garnish with fresh herbs of your choice.