Pilau is pronounced as many ways as it is spelled. I've seen one spelling of pileau, many of purloo, and pilaf. It is featured in many historic cookbooks with several variations of ingredients: chicken seems primary, as do tomato and smoked pork, such as bacon or fatback. This tomato pilau also is called red rice, depending on the region.

Here is a recipe from "Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking," which is a recipe of William Deas, Mrs. Rhett's butler, and is made the same way as the okra pilau but without okra, and using salt pork.

We used this recipe in our book, "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." Traditionally Carolina Gold rice, a medium grain, was used, but when it was no longer produced abundantly, many people substituted a short grain rice such as arborio rice.

We find that long-grain rice such as basmati or jasmine also works fine with this recipe. So anything goes.

Tomato Pilau (aka Red Rice)

Serves 4


5 slices salt pork, diced

1 small onion, chopped

2 cups canned tomatoes

1?2 to 1 cup water or chicken stock or broth, divided


Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup raw rice

3 tablespoons butter


Rinse the salt pork, add to a skillet with the onion, and fry until brown. Add the tomatoes, cut them with scissors, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water or stock and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the rice, cover tightly, and let the pilau cook slowly, about 12 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed, adding the remaining liquid if the rice does not seem cooked. Just before serving, stir in the butter.


Terry Thompson's Red Rice or Pilau: Terry Thompson was one of those students of mine who far exceeded me in skill. Living in Louisiana, she arrived at Rich's Cooking School with a bottle of Tabasco in her apron pocket and used it whenever I wasn't looking.

In her book "Taste of the South," the recipe calls for a chopped medium green bell pepper and 4 chopped green onions, along with poultry stock rather than water.

She adds bay leaf, basil, black pepper, oregano, salt and Tabasco, of course, along with the tomato, discarding the bay leaf before serving.

Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently the James Beard award-winning "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com