So what’s special about Turkish Rice Pilaf?
Turkish Rice Pilaf is all about the flavor of the rice and the variety of added ingredients. Those come from coating the rice in oil and steaming it in a rich broth as I do in this version. This is just the simplest version with chicken stock, orzo, onion, and toasted almonds on top but you can go with saffron, garbanzo beans, green peas, or even thin sauteed strips of eggplant. Be creative!
A little history
As much as we link the far east with rice I’d have to give the nod to the Turks who have perfected rice pilaf as a stand-alone dish. It has specific varieties stretching from Kazakhstan to Kirkareli on the Bulgarian border. Wherever there are Turks (and Persians!) there is Turkish Rice or “Pilaf.”
In 1539, Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent even made a “feast record” to commemorate the circumcisions of his sons Bayezid and Cihangir. He notes plain Pilaf, along with noodle pilaf, saffron pilaf, green pilaf (cooked in spinach juice), red pilaf (with grape molasses), şehriye (thin vermicelli) pilaf, and pilaf with pomegranate molasses. Others mention mulberries, barberries, pomegranate seeds, ambergris, and raisins as delicious additions.
But for now, we’ll start simple.
What you need:
- Rice (any kind, but usually long-grain)
- Orzo (a pasta that looks like rice)
- onion or shallot
- chicken stock.
This gets its own category because it’s crucial. To be clear you may make a delicious Turkish rice dish with good old Swanson’s chicken broth or whatever canned version is your fav. However, if you want something amazing make your own stock and let it bubble away until it’s gelatinous. And I mean thick. If you can’t swing that, try the bone broth that’s sold in the grocery store. You won’t be sorry.
Assembly and Cooking
Once you have the ingredients lined up do the following:
- Rinse and drain the rice.
- Measure out the orzo.
- Chop the onion.
- Melt the butter in a pot with a lid (or your rice cooker) & brown the orzo and onion, adding the rice last.
- Add the stock, cover and cook until done then fluff the rice and add some toasted almonds and parsley.
Best in a covered dish especially if you end up with leftovers.
Other Similar Rice Dishes to try
Here on the Gulf Coast, we have Louisiana Dirty Rice which is one of our riffs on rice, and on the west coast of Africa, they have Jollof Rice.
- 1 cup long-grain white rice (basmati or jasmine is fine)
- ¼ cup orzo
- 3 tablespoons shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups chicken stock (or bone broth)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- Melt butter over medium heat, add orzo & shallot & stir until brown.
- Add rice and stir in to coat with oil
- Add broth, bay leaf, cover, and cook over low heat until the stock is absorbed and soft.
- Remove bay leaf and fluff with a fork.