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Rice is the main ingredient of plov. It is cooked in a heavy cast-iron pot which is made specifically for cooking plov. The pot is round and looks something like our Dutch oven, but wider and taller. I have seen pots in different sizes, from 15" diameter to 2' across. A unique feature of this cooking vessel is its rounded bottom, which extends down into the flame for about two inches at its center and then graduates up to meet the sides of the pot. In this feature, it resembles an Asian wok. The plov pot sits in a metal holder over the flame on the stove.

Oil is poured into the rounded bottom before rice, meat, carrots and onions, salt and spices are added. No water is used. The pot is covered and the mixture cooks for several hours. Each family adds its own special touches and claims to make the best.

Mamajon had made a slightly different version that night because Martha was a vegetarian. Instead of meat, the steaming bowl on the table contained dried apricots, raisins and nuts and my mouth was watering as we all prepared to eat.

Turkmen people eat this dish with their fingers, all from the main bowl. Although I was taken aback to see the family eating this way at first, I soon had to admire their skills. It seemed quite a talent to me, the way they created a downward pointing scoop from the fingers of one hand and gathered the rice from the bowl. The food is packed in securely by pressure against the side of the dish and the thumb. The loaded hand turns upward as the food is deftly and neatly conveyed to the mouth.

Chai Budesh? Anyone for Tea? by Joan Heron


After washing rice in hot water, place in pot over the meat and vegetables. Do not stir from the bottom so that meat and vegetables remain at bottom of the pot. Pour boiling water over the rice, slowly, through a slotted spoon to maintain a level surface, just enough water to cover the rice. Insert garlic cloves in pockets in the rice and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook for 29-25 minutes or more, depending on cooking time for rice. Stir rice layer only, occasionally. When rice is ready, remove from heat, stir meat and vegetables into the rice and serve with salad or other vegetables.

* A special iron pot with a rounded bottom, creating a well. A metal frame or cradle holds the pot steady over the flame on the stove.