Plov, pilaf, or aş (ash), as it is called in Azeri, is an irreplaceable dish on the Azerbaijani menu. This simple yet beloved rice-based meal has over forty local variants that differ in ingredients and cooking techniques.
Traditionally, Azerbaijani plov features warm rice and fried pieces of beef or chicken mixed with onions, nuts, fruits and spices. In some regions of the country, wheat is used instead of rice.
Plov is sometimes classified based on its key ingredients and the techniques with which it is prepared:
Qovurma Plov (Fried Plov) features mutton flavored with onion. ‘Qovurma’ means ‘fried’ in Azeri and, true to its name, many of the ingredients are fried before being simmered together and served hot.
Shirin Plov (Sweet Plov), a meatless variation made of rice mixed with dried fruits, is counted among the most tantalizing foods to try in Azerbaijan, particularly for vegetarians.
Sheshryanch Plov (Six-Colored Plov) is topped with sunny-side-up eggs.
There is also Chilov Plov (Fish and Bean Plov) and Toyug Plov (Chicken Plov).
Regarding the cooking style, Azerbaijani plov can be classified into three main categories:
Dashma Plov involves boiling rice, meat, vegetables and herbs together.
Suzme Plov features parboiled rice piled up in a pyramid and crowned with spices and butter before steaming.
Dosheme Plov also requires parboiled rice, which is placed in a pot with meat, vegetables, fruits and spices stacked in alternate layers. The mixture is then cooked until tender.
Other types of Azerbaijani plov have grown famous for their spectacular presentation styles:
Shah Plov (Crown Plov) is often served during wedding ceremonies and is perhaps the most well-known plov recipe in the world. The rice is cooked before being placed in a pot lined with a flatbread called lavash. The first layer of rice is dribbled with 3-4 spoons of melted butter and covered in another layer of rice. This procedure is repeated until all the rice is used. Next, a mixture of saffron and hot water is poured on top. The pile is then covered with lavash, placed in the oven and baked until the flatbread is golden brown. Shah plov can also be made with a layer of dried fruit and nuts or various types of meat placed atop the rice before baking.
Parcha-Dosheme Plov (Piecemeal-Ingredient Plov) is a spectacular dish which is also cooked in layers. The pyramid starts with meat, followed by onions, rice, dried fruit and chestnuts. It is then covered with more rice and steamed. When ready, the plov should be served in a way that preserves each distinct layer.
Fisinjan Plov (Fisincan Plov) is one of the most ancient of all Azerbaijan recipes, calling for rice with meatballs, walnuts and pomegranate syrup (narsharab). The meatballs are fried on a pan in advance before being mixed with fried onions, ground nuts and a few spoons of narsharab. Everything is then simmered in water for about 30 minutes. Once the dish is ready, it is served atop cooked saffron rice.