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Uyghur Polo (Pilaf)

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“Polo (a Central Asian variant on the word pilaf) is a food staple found across Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and parts of northwestern China. The different peoples of each region have their own takes, and their own flavors, for the recipe. This recipe is for Uyghur polo, the variant of the dish found in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Uyghur food is on the whole closer in taste to Indian, Persian, or Mediterranean food than it is to conventional Chinese food. I credit this recipe to my Uyghur language instructor. The recipe can be a challenge to cook correctly at first, but the challenge will prove well worth the effort because it is absolutely delicious.”

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Set the stove temperature at 7/10 at highest.
  2. Cook the meat in the oil, stirring occasionally until evenly browned.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the pot, still stirring, and cook until it is translucent.
  4. Stir carrots into the pot. Note that it will initially look like there are too many carrots in the dish; however, once they begin to absorb some of the oil they will shrink down and mix well into the the recipe.
  5. Add salt according to your taste.
  6. Pour water into the pot.
  7. When the water boils, add the hot pepper and whole garlic bulb. Let them simmer in the mixture for five minutes, and then fish them back out and set them aside.
  8. Add cumin.
  9. Lower the stove temperature (to about 3/10) and allow the mixture to boil for 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. After the 15 to 20 minutes, raise the heat (once again, no higher than 7/10) and add rice to the pot. Spread the rice out on top of the water, but do not mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
  11. When water is no longer visible above the rice, then spoon the rice towards the center.
  12. Replace the garlic bulb and red pepper into the pot, and pour raisins on top of the rice.
  13. Place a lid on top of the pot and lower the heat to 3/10.
  14. Cook for 30 minutes. After that time, once again remove the hot pepper and the garlic, and stir the rest of the ingredients. This dish is often served with flatbread, yogurt, and salad with a vinegar dressing.

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