What is Sabzi Polo?

Traditional polo sabzi recipes often include dill.

Polo Sabzi is a traditional Persian rice dish that is often served with fish, especially during New Year celebrations. Most recipes incorporate bright green herbs that give sabzi polo its distinctive color. In Persian, the word sabzi refers to vegetables and herbs, while polo is the Persian term for pilaf-like rice dishes. Traditional sabzi polo recipes tend to have highly detailed and elaborate procedures, while modern adaptations take a more practical and cost-effective approach to preparing this popular Iranian cuisine.

Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and in dietary supplements.

A long-grain rice variety such as basmati is preferred for making sabzi polo, as short-grain varieties tend to be very sticky. Even when using long-grain rice, it is essential to remove as much starch as possible to eliminate stickiness. Traditionally, after washing rice three times, it is soaked in salt water for up to five hours. While the rice is soaking, the other ingredients are assembled and mixed. Traditional polo sabzi recipes often include chopped chives or the green part of chives, dill, cilantro and fenugreek.

Turmeric gives sabzi polo its golden color.

After the rice is soaked in salted water, it is parboiled in a pan with turmeric, which gives it a golden color. The water is brought to a boil and the rice is added gently, gradually, to prevent clumping and to minimize breakage of individual grains. Keeping the water boiling, the rice is stirred to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The heat is then reduced to medium and the rice is cooked for a few more minutes. The rice is ready for the next step when a grain placed between the teeth shows some softness in the middle without being fully cooked.

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After boiling, the rice is drained and then steamed in a pan with water and oil along with the herbs and seasonings previously assembled. About a third of the rice is placed in an even layer on the bottom of the pot and about half of the herbs and spices are layered on top of it. Another third of the rice is then placed in a second layer and the rest of the herbs and spices are placed on top of that layer. The last third of the rice is then spread evenly over the top and water or broth is added. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, four or five holes are made in the rice and herbs.

The pan is covered tightly and the sabzi polo is cooked over medium-high heat for about three minutes. The heat is then reduced and simmered for about 30 minutes. It is then gently stirred with a fork to mix the rice with the herbs and spices. The crispy layer of rice found at the bottom of the pan is usually served on the side on a separate plate.

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