Pilaf is a dish that is well known in Central Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines that include rice, meat, and vegetables. Pilaf is considered to be a national dish in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey, and in each country it is prepared slightly differently. Which country has the most delicious pilaf? This is precisely what the owners of Druskininkai’s Bukhara restaurant are attempting to find out by organising every spring a pilaf cooking championship in the alley near their restaurant.
This championship attracts a good many visitors who are happy to taste and buy pilaf that is available directly from the qazans (a special cast iron cooking pot that is intended for pilaf cooking), while also learning recipes for pilaf preparation that are typical of the various countries that are involved in the creation of pilaf-related dishes.
‘The classic Uzbek pilaf is made with rice, meat, carrots, onions, and oil, grease, cumin, salt, and water. In correct pilaf the rice should be long, dry, and well cooked, and the meat may be different, preferably from more unusual species or from different parts of the animal. The dish needs to be seasoned with the cumin oriental spice, which has a very specific taste. Without it, the pilaf would not be pilaf,’ says the initiator of the event, Ganna Pakhomova.
During the previous championships, Vilnius Tatars, Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and Lithuanians have already won the titles. Several types of pilaf may be tasted all year round because, in Druskininkai’s Bukhara restaurant, this dish is prepared by chefs from Uzbekistan.