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Turkish Rice Pilaf & Its Unique Place in History

Turkish Rice Pilaf & Its Unique Place in History

Pilav, commonly referred to as as pilaf, is an important part of Turkish cuisine that possesses a ritual quality. Pilaf plays a major role in both everyday cooking and ceremonial functions. Although pilaf is made using a number of grains, the first that comes to mind when thinking of Turkish recipes is rice pilaf. It has always enjoyed a special status in Turkey. Other forms of pilaf include cracked wheat, couscous and bulgur.

Pilaf and Its Background

Going back many centuries, five great regional concepts of pilaf recipes have evolved: Indian, Central Asian, Iranian, Caribbean and Turkish. Each has its own cooking style and repertoire of pilafs. Most follow the most ancient and simplest recipe. Basically, you fry the meat, carrots and onions, then you include whatever additional ingredients you desire with water and stew everything. In Turkey, the concept of pilaf is slightly different. It is considered more of a side dish instead of the main course.

Rice Pilaf

Rice Pilaf (Photo credit: cookbookman17)

Careful Preparation Is the Key

Just as in years gone by, pilaf prepared today in modern Turkey follows a pretty simple technique. First, the rice is carefully sorted and washed. It is then soaked in salty water and thoroughly drained. Next, it is fried in butter or oil and cooked using salt and water. To achieve the most desirable consistency, it must be left standing away from the heat for approximately 20 or so minutes. One of the prerequisites for preparing great pilaf is using the best rice variety.

Importance of Quality Ingredients

The desired flavor of Turkish rice pilaf is also determined by the meat and butter quality, the use of meat or chicken broth, and allowing for a sufficient resting period following the cooking process. Most connoisseurs of Turkish cuisine will tell you that rice pilaf is measured by its distinct grains which don’t stick together. Although Turkish pilaf has the impression of being quite simple, it’s still remains as a good yardstick of the cooking ability of both housewives and professional cooks. It is perceived that one who can create an excellent pilaf will excel at making other dishes as well.

Traditional Recipe

Pilaf in Turkey can be either a side or single main dish. It is often accompanied by greens, a salad, yogurt and ayran. It is considered to be an indispensable addition to foods in Turkish culture that are prepared with water in a pot. Kebabs and meat dishes in Turkey are almost always served with a rice pilaf. Some of the ingredients you’ll most likely find in Turkish rice pilaf include grains, meat, broth, lentil, artichoke, carrot, cabbage, fresh tomato and butter.