AskDefine | Define pilaf

Dictionary Definition

pilaf n : rice cooked in well-seasoned broth with onions or celery and usually poultry or game or shellfish and sometimes tomatoes [syn: pilaff, pilau, pilaw]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A dish made by browning grain in oil and then cooking it with a seasoned broth. It may also contain meat and/or vegetables.


  • Finnish: pilahviriisi
  • Kurdish:


  • Some have described it as desecration, but tribal chairman Charlie Vaughn dismisses his critics as people who are "eating tofu and pilaf and sitting in Phoenix with their plasma-screen TVs. - The world at a glance: Grand Canyon, Arizona, The Week, Issue 605, page 8.

Extensive Definition

Pilaf is a dish in which a grain, such as rice or cracked wheat, is generally first browned in oil, and then cooked in a seasoned broth. Depending on the local cuisine it may also contain a variety of meat and vegetables. Pilaf and similar dishes are common to Middle Eastern, Central, South Asian, Latin American and Caribbean cuisine.
Other names:
Persian rice recipes probably go back to the expansion of rice cultivation within the Persian Empire under Darius the Great. There is historical evidence that the cultivation of rice was introduced systematically into Mesopotamia and South Western Iran on a large scale in the 5th century BC, making rice available to the people of Central Asia and the Middle East on a scale that was not possible previously. In modern Persian, Pilaf is pronounced polow (پلو), with the first syllable short, and the second long.
Persian culinary terms referring to rice preparations are numerous and have found their way into the neighbouring languages: Polo (rice cooked in broth while the grains remain separate, straining the half cooked rice before adding the broth and then 'brewing'), Cholo (white rice with separate grains), Kateh (sticky rice), Biryani (similar to polo but involving some frying in butter after it is cooked), Tachine (slow cooked rice, vegetables and meat cooked in a specially designed dish also called a tachine).
There are four primary methods of cooking rice in Iran:
  • Chelow: rice that is carefully prepared through soaking and parboiling, at which point the water is drained and the rice is steamed. This method results in an exceptionally fluffy rice with the grains separated, and not sticky, and also results in a golden rice crust at the bottom of the pot called tah-digh (literally "bottom of the pot").
  • Polow: rice that is cooked exactly the same as chelow, with the exception that after draining the rice, other ingredients are added in layers or sections of the rice, and then steamed together.
  • Kateh: rice that is cooked until the water is absorbed. This is also the traditional dish of Northern Iran (described in detail below).
  • Damy: cooked almost the same as kateh, except that the heat is reduced just before boiling and a towel is placed between the lid and the pot to prevent steam from escaping. Damy literally means "simmered."


One of the earliest literary references to Pilau can be found in the histories of Alexander the Great from Macedonia when describing Bactrian (an Eastern Iranian province probably the birthplace of Alexander's wife Roxana and geographically in modern Afghanistan) hospitality. Uzbek "plov" is often considered to be one of the oldest preparations of rice which has Persian roots due to the non-existence of Turkic tribes in Central Asia at the time. It was known to have been served to Alexander the Great upon his capture of the Sogdian capital of Marakanda (modern Samarkand). Alexander's army brought it back to Macedonia and spread it throughout Eastern Europe.
The pilau became standard fare in the Middle East over the years with variations and innovation by the Arabs, Turks and Armenians. It was introduced to Israel by Bukharian and Persian Jews.
The Mughals introduced many Persian dishes to the subcontinent including rice dishes. Pulao (sometimes spelt 'pulav') is a South Asian dish made of rice. It is made with peas, potatoes, mutton, beef or chicken. It is usually served on special occasions and weddings and is very high in food energy and fat. Meat pulao is a North Indian tradition, especially among the Muslim population. Biryani is an Indian and Pakistani dish very similar to pilav introduced during the Mughal period. It is made from basmati or similar aromatic rice.
During the years of the Soviet Union, the dish spread throughout the other Soviet republics, becoming a favorite in such diverse places as Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia.

External links

pilaf in Czech: Pilaf
pilaf in German: Pilaw
pilaf in Spanish: Pilaf (comida)
pilaf in Esperanto: Pilafo
pilaf in Persian: پلو
pilaf in French: Riz pilaf
pilaf in Korean: 필라프
pilaf in Hebrew: פילאף
pilaf in Lithuanian: Plovas
pilaf in Dutch: Pilaf
pilaf in Japanese: ピラフ
pilaf in Norwegian Nynorsk: Pilaff
pilaf in Portuguese: Pilaf
pilaf in Russian: Плов
pilaf in Swedish: Pilaff
pilaf in Tajik: Оши палов
pilaf in Turkish: Pilav
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