Tashkent’s Plov King

by Nathan Hamm on 5/28/2005 · 11 comments

AFP has a wonderful story on Nurshod Asymov, who is rumored to make the best plov in Tashkent.

“You won’t eat plov like this anywhere else in the city,” he says authoritatively, an opinion backed up not only by his customers but by the city’s chief opinion formers — taxi drivers.

“Best plov in town,” at least a half a dozen cabbies separately confided to AFP recently.

And it certainly does look excellent.

In a country where the ability to make a tasty plov is a matter of male honor (women are not considered able to mix the concoction properly), being branded the best is quite an accomplishment. At Asymov’s cafe, the accolades are backed up by some 1,000 mouths which each day savor his creations.

At noon every day, Asymov’s eight sous-chefs lift the tops of three huge iron cauldrons, the largest a meter in diameter, in which lamb, beef, carrots, raisins and rice have fried, simmered, boiled and steamed since 7 a.m.

They stir their concoctions like witches mixing a brew and begin to dole out aromatic heaps into bowls, plates and pots. Two hours later, the cauldrons are empty and hundreds of stomachs full.

“If you eat a portion of my plov for lunch, you won’t feel hungry until the next day,” Asymov says. “I guarantee it.”

Asymov says he knows how to make 80 kinds of plov and that the key to good plov is to not skimp on ingredients. He personally selects the cows and sheep for his plov.

If you want to try your hand at making plov, there are a few different recipes here. I’m partial to the first one because of its explicit mention of the importance of cumin. A note though… People tell me the plov I make is good. But, like with wok cooking, a well-seasoned kozon (the iron cauldrons mentioned above, which are pretty much really big, heavy woks) makes much better plov than does a plain old pot. Also, there’s no way to make healthy plov. Don’t use olive or any other healthy oil. It’s just not right! If you can find cottonseed oil, use it. If not, go with sunflower.

More recipes can be found here, here, and loads of discussion here when Laurence posted a recipe.

And finally, to my Tashkent readers, have you had Asymov’s plov? Is he really the best?

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Hulegu May 28, 2005 at 4:55 pm

I assume plov is the regional variation of paella/pilau/pilav/pilaff etc. The picture you give seems to indicate that there is a greater presence of large chunks of meat … mmmm, sweet, sweet meat. Is there anything it can’t do?

Nathan May 28, 2005 at 5:34 pm

Actually, in a lot of places, it usually is said more like “pilau.” The more authentically Uzbek word is osh, which pleases me mightily because that word is not only the name of a city, but it’s also part of the words for cook, kitchen, stomach, and probably others I don’t know.

Asymov’s secret seems to be to add more meat. Cause damn, that’s more than I ever saw.

Tim Newman May 30, 2005 at 3:06 am

If what I am told is correct, plov should not be eaten with cutlery but with ones hands.

Jay May 30, 2005 at 4:38 am

Does anyone know where in Tashkent that this cafe is located? I will let you know if it really is different than other osh I have tasted.


Hans Heiner Buhr May 30, 2005 at 3:36 pm

Dear Nathan, thank you for your great idea to link to that article and write about the plov. I posted my opinion about the Plov and the Mir Burger at


adil August 13, 2005 at 6:13 am

does anyone know who ZERA (spice used in plov) is translated into English. I want to cook plov but can not find or buy ZERA as I am staying in England.

Alex August 13, 2005 at 10:29 pm

it is easy – ZERA is CUMIN in english. You can find it in any supermarket.

Alex August 13, 2005 at 10:31 pm

I have another question here – where can I find BARBARIS – another spicy use in plov and how it is called in english? if anybody knows, please let me know.

Thanks in advance

Rich February 20, 2007 at 11:02 pm


A saloma alakum. Barbaris bilmiman, lekium Alex-akka togra gapirgan; zera va cummin bir hil. Yordom bermokchiman, Barbarisni rang va hed nima? Kanaka ovcat tyorlangan barbaris bilan?

Hello Adil,

Alex is correct, zera is cumin in English. I’m not familiar with barbarise though, what color is it? What does it smell like? What food do you prepare with it?

Rich February 20, 2007 at 11:27 pm

I wonder, bay leaves?

Nathan February 20, 2007 at 11:28 pm

According to my (quite good) Uzbek dictionary, barbaris is bayberry. I happen to have some plov spice mix from Bukhara in the cabinet, and lo and behold, there are are dried berries in it.

The word was listed as a Russian loan word in the dictionary, so I checked the Russian dictionary. That one lists the berry as barberry, which actually does look like what’s in my spice.

There are tons of varieties, and it looks tough to find in the US. None of the spice websites I checked out have it. But I was able to find it under its Persian name, zereshk.

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