Uyghur Traditional Dish: Polo. Submitted by Maidina Tuohuti, China

Uyghur Traditional Dish: Polo

Studying abroad can be hard, especially when you miss all your favorite food from back home! One student shares her favorite recipe and you can share your favorites as well!

A few weeks ago, I had a dream. In my dream, I was sleeping. An aroma was blowing into my face and the smell was so familiar that I felt like it awakened me, but I was still asleep and dreaming.

My mom had already put the Polo in plates on the table. The carrots and rice after braising had raisins shining scattered here and there on top. The lamb was cut in very small pieces, because Mom knows that I don’t like meats that are too big. The whole dish was steaming. She looked at me with humble pride.

I told my mom that I will go get some spoons for her. I went to the kitchen, but I could not find any. The rest of my dream was desperately looking for spoons. I couldn’t wait to eat Mom’s traditional dish. However, I never could find spoons and never got to try my favorite dish from home.

I woke up, looked around, I found myself still in that small room decorated with my mom and dad’s pictures and outside it was still raining. I would rather not have dreamed about my mom and that delicious dish from my hometown.

Since that day, Polo, my favorite traditional food from home, pops up in my mind quite often, so I decided that I was going to cook it myself, even though I have never tried it in my life.

When I was looking for Polo recipes online, interestingly enough, I found that Polo is originally from Uzbekistan which is very close to my hometown and they call it Plov. It is also known as Pilav, Pilaf, Pulao and so on. These dishes are common to Balkan, Middle Eastern, central and south Asia and some other parts of the world. But all of the recipes are less attractive compared to my mom’s Polo.

I called Mom through Skype and got her instructions, step by step:


  • 1/2 lb beef, or lamb (lamb is the better choice)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions,
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into matchstick size
  • 1 tsp. salt for the meat and veggies + 1 1/2 tsp. salt for the rice
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 3/4 cups hot water for braising meat
  • 3 cups long grain rice
  • 4 cups hot water to cook the rice
  • 1 cup raisins

After all the preparation, now I can start:

  • Chop the meat into small pieces.
  • Preheat the pot (it has to be a pot with a heavy bottom), to high heat. Once it’s hot, stir in the 1/3 cup oil. Once the oil is hot, add chopped meat and salt and cook uncovered 7 minutes over high heat until the meat is browned.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped onion, stirring often until onion is softened (5 minutes).
  • Stir in the sliced carrots, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. Cumin and continue to cook over medium heat 5 minutes until the carrots are softened.
  • Add 1 3/4 cups hot water, cover over medium/low heat 45 min. or until the meat is tender.
  • Meanwhile, wash rice until water runs clear, then drain and set aside.
  • Spread rice over the meat and add 4 cups hot water. Sprinkle the rice with 1 1/2 tsp salt (DO NOT STIR), boil and then reduce heat to medium and let cook uncovered until most of the water is absorbed (10 min).
  • Poke 7-10 holes in the rice to allow steam out of the surface, reduce the heat to low, and sprinkle the raisins on the rice. Lastly, cover the pot tightly and cook an additional 15 minutes.


Hey, how does that look? Does that look like something you would like to try? I know the process is hard and time-consuming, but, you know, it is worth it.

For all our students who study abroad there must be a hundred times they miss food from home, but I believe that as long as we try to make it – for the first few times you might not be successful and it might not be as good as your mom’s homemade food, but at least you get to appreciate it every single time your mom cooks it.


If you have a favorite food from home, why don’t you share the recipe with us?

Click here to share your favorite recipe!


Medina Tohti international student voice magazineMaidina Tuohuti is an international student from China studying journalism at George Fox University, a private Christian university in Oregon. Maidina is a journalism intern with ISV Magazine, writing about her own experiences as a Muslim student in the U.S. as well as writing feature articles on topics important to all international students. 

Maidina can be reached at

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