What is Pilao?
Pilao is a succulent dish of rice prepared with spices, meat, fish, and vegetables, pasta and dried fruits and seasoned with broth. It has many other alternative names like pilaf, polu, pilau, polo, palaw and many more in different cuisine.
This is a traditional dish of Afgan, Bangladeshi, Jewish, Pakistani and Iranian, Cretan, Balochi and Turkish cultures. Pilao and its similar preparation are now quite common in Caribbean, latin American, Middle Eastern and Caucasian, Central & South Asian and east African cuisine.
Pilao has a long history that dates back during the Alexandrian period. It was believed that the dish was served to Alexander at a regal banquet when he captured the capital of Samarkand. The army brought the recipe of the delicious dish back to Macedonia and later it spread in the entire Greece culture.
The term Pilaf is derived from the Turkish word Pilav, which went through stages of transformation and became “Polow” in Persian. Another story unfolds that Indian epic Mahabharata has mentioned “pulao,” preparation of rice and meat cooked together. This suggested that the dish was popular during the ancient Sanskrit and the term meant “ball of rice,” possibly a Dravidian origin.
It spread over Middle East, Israel and Transcaucasia and became their staple diet over the years. The Persians, Arabs, Armenians and Turks brought various alterations to the dishes by blending with different flavors and spices. Pilao gradually even formed a part of Soviet cuisine when the Central Asian version of Pilaf was loved by the locals.
Abu Ali Ibn Sina, whose name is mentioned in various books, was considered by Uzbeks and Tajiks to be the “father” of the modern Pilao. He was the first to document the proper preparation of a Pilao, including its various types and discussing the advantages & the disadvantages of the ingredients used in the recipe.
Fragrant Pilaf making procedure
Pilao can be made with different ingredients but here is one example of a flavorful dish.
To get the correct aromatics sauté the components- onion, garlic, fennel, carrot, or shallot and other vegetables in a saucepan with olive oil or unsalted butter. Place the pan in a medium heat and cook till the elements become soft. Add salt and pepper for taste.
Choose your spices that will enhance the taste and aroma. Use cinnamon, cumin and coriander to give a distinct flavor to the rice, but one should never add excess spice as it may degrade the taste of the dish. To prepare rice, long grain white rice like jasmine and basmati is a must. Cook the rice till you get a flavorful smell coming out of them.
Next comes, your broth! Mix your chicken, vegetables, seafood broth with salt and pepper (you may also use wine) and leave them to boil. Cover the pan for 20 minutes and let the liquid get seeped into the ingredients.
Take your rice, mix all the elements and cover the pot with a clean towel for 10 minutes. This usually does not let the steam to escape making the rice fluffy. When the rice gets ready garnish it with tender herbs like parsley, mint or cilantro and roasted almonds and pistachios for a sweet munch.