The national dish of Azerbaijan is plov, a rice-based pilaf seasoned with broth. It can have different names according to the main ingredients used. Basically, plov is a rice-based dish. It can be paired with various delicacies and combinations.
According to legend, plov was invented in the 4th century BC by Alexander the Great who instructed his cooks to prepare a light but filling rice dish for his army with what was on hand. They used lamb or quail and sometimes a bit of chili in addition to the staples.
3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup peeled chestnuts
1/2 cup pitted dried apricot, halved
1 cup barberries
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup golden raisin
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half lengthways, then thinly sliced in half-circles
1/3 teaspoon ground saffrod threads dissolved in 3 tbsp hot water
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the rice with lukewarm water until the water runs clear.
Fill a large bowl with warm water and a tablespoon of salt, then add the rice. Soak for about 15 minutes.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the peeled chestnuts and fry them.
Add apricots, barberry, and dates. Continue to cook for three minutes. Finally, add golden raisins and stir-fry for another minute. Remove from heat source.
Put 10 cups of salted water in a large pot. Drain the rice and add it to the pot. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes. When the rice has risen to the top of the pot, the rice is ready. Don't overcook it! The rice should be a little chewy and not too soft. Take a bite to make sure. Drain with a colander and set aside.
Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Place the raw chicken pieces on the bottom of the pan and distribute them evenly. Add about half a teaspoon of salt and a little pepper. Put the chopped onion on top of the chicken and simmer for about three minutes.
Cover the chicken and onions with half the rice. Spread the fruit and nut mixture on top, then place the remaining rice on top. Pour a tablespoon of melted butter on top.
Cook for 30 minutes, without stirring or disturbing it in any way.
Mix the crushed saffron thread with three tablespoons of hot water. Stir until the water turns a dark orange color. Pour the saffron water over the plov and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
In addition to all the influences from surrounding countries, what makes Azerbaijani cuisine so unique is its climate. In fact, there are 9 climate zones in Azerbaijan out of the 11 known climate zones in the world. This climatic diversity contributes to the fertility and rich cuisine of this land. The abundance of vegetables, vegetables, and fruits are used seasonally in today's recipes.
Plov is a famous dish in Azerbaijan and now it has its own festival. In the past two years, the International Plov Festival was held in Baku in December. It not only attracts chefs from Azerbaijan, but also chefs from Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and other countries.