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from: Eastern Africa | cooking method: boiling-simmering

Zanzibar Pilau

The word pilau comes from the Persian word pilav or pilaw, which is also the origin of pilaf, as in "rice pilaf". The pilav rice cooking technique is found throughout the Middle East and West Asia (i.e., Turkey, India, Pakistan). It has been spread across Africa by the Arabs, and was brought by enslaved Africans to the Americas. It is especially common in the Caribbean and Southern United States. In West Africa and the Americas the name has become pearlu, perloo, perlau, plaw, et cetera. Whatever the name, it is rice, vegetables, and meat cooked in a seasoned broth. Here is the Swahili way to make this omnipresent rice dish. See also: Biriani.

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More about Zanzibar Pilau in the Rare Recipes pages:

Richard Francis Burton

The plat de résistance was, as usual, the pillaw

In the late 1850's Richard Francis Burton traveled from Zanzibar to Lake Tanganyika and back, and then wrote The Lake Regions of Central Africa: A Picture of Exploration (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1860; reprinted by Dover Publications, and by Scholarly Press). He ate pilau at a meal with "Arabs" (the Swahili Arabs from Zanzibar) at one of their trading posts in the interior:

It was hard eating this time. The shorwa, or mutton broth, thickened with melted butter, attracted admiration; the guests, however, could only hint at its excellences, because in the East if you praise a man's meat you intend to slight his society. The plat de résistance was, as usual, the pillaw, or, as it is here called, pulao--not the conventional mess of rice and fowl, almonds and raisins, onion-shreds, cardamoms, and other abominations, which goes by that name among Anglo-Indians, but a solid heap of rice, boiled after being greased with a handful of ghee-- --and dotted over with morsels of fowl, so boiled that they shredded like yarn under the teeth. This repast again concluded with a bowl of sweetened milk...
(Chapter XI -- We Conclude the Transit of Unyamwezi)


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