what their most important dish and, undoubtedly, they'll tell
you "plov", the king of Azerbaijani cuisine. In Southern
Azerbaijan (in Iran), rice is served on a daily basis. In the
Azerbaijani Republic, however, plov (often referred to as "ash")
is presented as the grand finale to special meals, such as at
weddings, birthday parties, special dinners, family gatherings
and even funerals. In the Republic, pilaf is not just an accompaniment
to other dishes. The pilaf is served on a large platter and topped
with melted butter. Rice mixed with saffron provides a bright
golden decorative garnish on top. In the Republic of Azerbaijan,
it's very popular to serve pilaf with meat, prunes, raisins and
There are more than 100 different kinds of plov. Some of the
most popular kinds include: chicken plov, shuyud plov (chopped
dill), kishmish plov (raisins), sudlu ash (milk), giyma plov
(finely chopped meat, potatoes and yellow split peas), sabzi
plov (greens) and fisinjan (pomegranate syrup, walnuts and chicken).
Making the perfect plov requires care and experience - like a
fine science. There are many variables: timing, temperature,
the proportion of rice to water, the size and thickness of the
pot and the quality of the rice. The type of rice used is usually
the long-grain basmati-style rice, which they are starting to
grow again in the Lankaran region, in the south of Azerbaijan.
To keep the rice from burning, some cooks place a thin layer
of lavash bread or potatoes in the bottom of the pan. This becomes
gazmag ("tadig" in Farsi), the crunchy delicacy that
many consider to be the best part of the plov. In this photo,
the rice has been garnished with pieces of gazmag made of dough.
From Azerbaijan International (8.3) Autumn 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.
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AI 8.3 (Autumn 2000)