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What is Pulao?

Janis Adams
Janis Adams

Pulao is a type of fried rice dish that is believed to have originated in Persia with similar derivatives found in other cultures. Pulao is similar to the English dish of pilaf or the Italian risotto. Pulao can be served as a simple fried rice dish, or it can include numerous other ingredients, like meat or vegetables.

Traditionally basmati rice is used in the preparation of pulao. This is a long-grain rice known mostly for its powerful fragrance. Available in both white and brown, basmati rice is not a sticky rice. What makes basmati rice unique is that the grains are longer than regular rice.

Raisins are a common addition to pulao.
Raisins are a common addition to pulao.

What makes this type of rice dish unique is the liquid or broth that the rice is cooked in. Pulao is cooked in seasoned water or broth, lending it not only an aromatic smell, but also a heightened taste that traditional rice simply does not have. Often the broth or bullion will have cooked or burned onions, which not only add flavor but a rich color.

Dried apricots are added to some types of pulao.
Dried apricots are added to some types of pulao.

Many cultures serve rice as a part of the dinner meal, and often it is also included at lunch. The Middle Eastern tradition from which pulao originated serves a rice dish as a staple of the main meal. Lamb, beef, or chicken is served at this time along with this dish.

This dish is not always savory in flavor. Many times raisins are added to provide a sweetness. Added during the cooking process, the raisins become even more plump and supple. Along with the raisins, carrots are often added, further enhancing the sense of sweetness. Dried apricots are also a common addition. While the apricots are warming, they are infused with some of the liquid in which the rice is being cooked. While there is a sweetness in these varieties of pulao, they are not served as a dessert, but instead as part of the main meal of the day.

Traditional pulao is not a stewed porridge-type rice, but it is a steamed rice that furthers the single-grain consistency. To increase the moistness of the rice dish, often a type of thin broth-like soup is poured over the already cooked rice. The ingredients of this broth vary from recipe to recipe. Some contain bits and pieces of meat, while others contain numerous vegetables.

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    • Raisins are a common addition to pulao.
      By: Dionisvera
      Raisins are a common addition to pulao.
    • Dried apricots are added to some types of pulao.
      By: Volodymyr Shevchuk
      Dried apricots are added to some types of pulao.