Cook the World Project – Recipe 1: Uzbekistan

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Two years ago, my (then) six-year old daughter and I begin a journey to cook our way around the world.

Approximately once a month, Grace picks a country from the big wall map. We research the food, the people, and the history of that nation and pick a traditional dish that we want to try. Next we shop and cook together, and maybe even work in a side trip to an ethnic market or food-truck, once in a while.

With about 15 of these under our belt (literally, for me) I’m going to start posting our processes, notes, and maybe a brief anecdote, but mostly it’s going to be about the recipes.

Here’s the first country my favorite sous chef picked…

Here we go!

-Chef Perry

January 29th, 2014

Wall Map

Okay, the map it up on the wall! (I had to go buy a second poster-board, it was a lot bigger than I thought!) This shot is pre-pinning. We have about 5 pins ready to go…Uzbekistan, France, Italy, and a couple of others.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI figure it’ll take at least a good 5-6 years to get through the list of 257 countries, not including regional pins for larger countries, and countries where we just choose to cook more than one recipe. I’ll be posting each pin (recipe, notes, and anecdotes) here, and then maybe compile all of those into a cookbook for the kiddo, when we’re all done.

If you’re wondering why I’m doing this, beyond loving to cook, loving to hang out with our awesome daughter, and best of all, combining the two…you can read these two posts on my other blog:

The Problem with Farm to Table

Tips for Raising an International Gourmet

This week, it’s Uzbekistan, and this dish is…


Uzbek Cuisine is influenced by local agriculture, as in most nations. There is a great deal of grain farming in Uzbekistan, so breads and noodles are of importance and Uzbek cuisine has been characterized as noodle rich. Mutton and lamb are a popular variety of meat due to the abundance of sheep in the country and it is part of various Uzbek dishes.

Osh, also called “Palov” or “Plov”, is a classical main dish of Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan. It is rich, filling and very tasty if prepared right. They are a number of optional ingredients, but base is onions, rice, carrots, oil and meat…typically lamb or mutton.

Oshi nahor, or “morning plov”, is served in the early morning (between 6 and 9 am) to large gatherings of guests, typically as part of an ongoing wedding celebration.

Things we learned about Uzbekistan:

  1. The Uzbeks believe that turning bread upside down will bring you bad fortune.
  2. According to an ancient tradition, a member of the family who is set to go on a journey has to take a bite from a small piece of Uzbek bread. The remaining bread is then kept buried or hidden until the traveler comes home.
  3. The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough osh (plov) to serve a thousand men.
  4. Traditionally, osh is a dish that is specifically prepared by men.

Uzbek Osh

  • 2 lbs fresh lamb leg steaks, bone in
  • 2 medium onions
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 3 1/2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 cup of grapeseed oil
  • 3 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups of boiling water
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

Clean, wash and matchstick the carrots.

Cut the onion in half, then into thin slices. Cut the lamb into 2 inch cubes and pat dry with paper towels, leaving the bones in the center cuts. Season the meat but tossing with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Start water boiling in a large pot.

Heat a non-stick pan (or cassoulet put, as pictured) on medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until you see a shimmer.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

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Using a skimmer, metal slotted spoon, carefully lower the lamb cubes meat in to the oil. Fry about 30 seconds per side until well browned. Cook in batches (you don’t want to crowd the pan, or your lamb will steam, instead of brown), then add all of the meat back into the pan when browned.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Once the meat has a nice brown crust, drop the onions on top. Add pinch of the cumin half of the listed salt and the black pepper.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Mix it all up to prevent the onions from sticking. Cook until the onions reach a deep golden brown, and then add the carrots to the pan. Add remaining salt and cumin. Stir it all up and fry until carrots start to soften. (Stir at least every 30 seconds to prevent sticking.)

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

When the carrots are done, lower the heat to medium, and pour in the 8 cups of boiling water. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, but don’t let it boil. Add the garlic bulb, pushing it down beneath the surface. Let the whole thing simmer on medium heat for an hour.

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Meanwhile, put your dry rice in a large pot, and rinse it (draining through the colander) four or five times to get the starch out of the rice.

When done rinsing, mix in the chopped dates, and set aside.

Uzbek Palov Osh RecipeAfter an hour, remove the garlic bulb (set it aside, you ain’t done with it), stir the meat and veggies, and then evenly distribute the rice over the top. If there’s not enough water on top of the meat and veggies, add enough to maintain and inch of water above the rice. DO NOT STIR…you want to cook the rice ON TOP of everything else.

Push the garlic bulb back into the center and continue to cook on medium heat, covered. Watch it closely, once the rice has absorbed all of the broth, things can burn pretty quickly.

Now comes the fun part…

Uzbek Palov Osh Recipe

Scoop off all of the rice onto a serving platter, and put the garlic bulb on top of the rice. Cover with foil and keep warm (a 200F oven works nicely.)

Turn up the heat under the meat and veggies and cook it down until any remaining liquid is reduced to a thick broth.

Cut up the meat into a small cubes and distribute it, and the veggies, over the rice. Sprinkle a few olives, and maybe a sprinkle of cilantro over the top, and your osh is done!

Serve with warm flatbread, butter lettuce cups, or both.

Oh, and don’t forget…no silverware required! Eat with your fingers (of the right hand!)


Chef Perry & Gracie