Many years ago, I went on a whirlwind working tour of Central Asia. While I was in Kyrgyzstan, about to head to Uzbekistan, I had a rather unpleasant cafeteria meal at the American university there. When I was biting into an ill-advised, subpar “grilled cheese,” hundreds of gunshots rang outside the window. What? At that time, there were vast social movements across Eastern Europe and they eventually spread to Central Asia … during my visit. Long story short, Kyrgyzstan was on lockdown and my visit to Uzbekistan was promptly cancelled. In honor of my terrific timing, I ate the national dish of Uzbekistan that night for dinner amidst a city-wide curfew.
- 1 cup basmati or other long grain white rice
- 4 cups water, divided
- 0.75 cup vegetable oil
- 1 lb lamb shoulder, diced
- 1½ tsp salt, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced half moons
- 0.5 lb carrots, cut into ¼ inch x 2 inch sticks
- 8 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, combine rice with 2 cups of water and set aside.
- Place a skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the lamb and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring often, until all of the meat has browned, about 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb to a plate and set aside.
- Add onion to the skillet and sauté until the onion pieces have softened and begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add carrots, garlic, cumin, and black pepper, and continue to sauté for an additional 6-8 minutes, or until the carrots have softened but not broken. Add the remaining 2 cups of water to the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the browned lamb, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
- Turn off the heat and uncover the skillet. Drain the soaking rice and evenly distribute it across the top of the contents of the skillet. Sprinkle the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt across the top. Using the back of a spoon, make sure the rice is submerged in liquid, but do not mix it with the lamb mixture. Cover and transfer the skillet to the oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the oven. Allow the plov to rest, covered, out of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, stir everything together, and serve directly to bowls.