Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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pilaf or pilau, a Middle Eastern method of cooking rice so that every grain remains separate, and the name of the resulting dish. Usually a flavouring such as meat (usually lamb) or vegetables is cooked along with it, but plain rice, known as sade pilav (Turkish), ruzz mufalfal (Arabic), or chelo (Farsi), can also be cooked by this technique.

The word comes from the medieval Farsi pulaw, now pronounced polo. Most European languages have borrowed the Turkish form pilav, which is clearly related to the Russian and C. Asian plov (a term which coexists in the C. Asian Republics with palaw). Since the word has no credible Persian etymology, it might be Indian. However, there is no evidence that rice was cooked by this technique in India before the Muslim invasions, and Indians themselves associate pilaf-making with Muslim cities such as Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Delhi.