Legendary Dishes | Plov (rice with butter, egg, saffron)


Throughout the Ottoman reign, traditional food from central Asia never went further west than Vienna. In the modern era, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Moldova was as far as its influence spread. The greater impact was on Greek and Turkish food. Plov, a type of rice from central Asia and the Indian sub-continent, 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. If you didn‘t know better, you‘d be fooled into believing that the suffused rice dishes of Greece and Turkey were the authentic version. Since the emergence of the food culture from the Eurasian region that has changed dramatically.

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

Baku, a Silk Road axis between Europe and Asia, had a rich food culture before the arrival of the Bolsheviks in April 1920 and Azerbaijan‘s eventual assimilation into the Soviet system. Since independence in 1991 Azerbaijanis have been rediscovering their lost traditional food, especially the dishes they cooked with berries, fruits, nuts, spices and vegetables, which usually came together with rice flavoured with butter and saffron and various meats.

Plovlar are back!

The saffron-infused plov of Azerbaijan, made properly, is now a signature dish of the world as its influence spreads to the western edges of the continent. The secret, as usual, is in the method.

This is a basic plov, see below for variations. For other plovlar secrets see Shirin Plov.

3 litres water
800 g basmati rice
1 egg, beaten
30 g butter
30 ml milk / water
30 g yoghurt
1 tsp saffron
Salt, pinch

Rinse the rice in hot, then cold water several times until the water is clear. This removes the starch and allows the rice grains to cook separately.

Heat milk or water and infuse saffron in a small bowl, about 30 minutes. Pour the water into a deep heavy-based saucepan, add salt and bring to the boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, add rice and cook over a medium heat, about ten minutes. Strain. Leave to cool.

Plov is not authentic without a qazmaq. This is the crust that forms at the bottom of the pan and allows the rice to steam gradually.

When the rice is cold, combine a sufficient amount with the yoghurt and egg to cover the base of the pan with a thick layer. Add a teaspoon of the saffron infusion to the qazmaq mixture.

Grease the base with a generous amount of butter, leaving a few lumps. Bring up heat to melt butter, then spread qazmaq mixture over the base of the pan. Fry over a low to medium heat for ten minutes.

Spoon the remaining rice into the pan, adding a few spoonfuls of saffron, then place more butter in top. Cover and leave to steam over a low heat. When the rice is cooked serve in a large bowl with the last of the butter and saffron milk.


Qubadlı Balıqlı – butter, cranberries, fish, onions, rice, salt, saffron

Şuşa Çolpalı – cockerel, cranberry/pomegranate, onion, rice, saffron

Şuşa Swbzi – beef, coriander, dill, fennel, leeks, lemon, onions, parsley, rice, saffron, salt, sorrel, tarragon

Xocalı aş Qarası – apricots, chestnuts, mutton, onions, plums, prunes, raisins, turmeric

Xocavwnd Qatıqlı aş – green beans, herbs, oil, rice, salt, yoghurt