Persian Herbed Rice with Fish (Sabzi Polo ba Mahi)

Sabzi Polo (Persian Herbed Rice ) is a truly symbolic dish to celebrate the first day of spring, the first day of the Persian New Year (Nowruz).

Persian Herbed Rice (Sabzi Polo) by

I was at the gym the other day, pounding on the elliptical when I noticed a new segment on the t.v. above me. They were talking about S.A.D., Seasonal Affective Disorder. It has to do with mild depression that arises during the winter months, you know the winter blues, and it usually dissipates when Spring arrives. I could totally relate to this. The shorter days and longer nights have ALWAYS affected me. I love our long summer days, I stay up later, have more energy, and I’m generally a happy person. Now I don’t live up North where you really have short days, or even where you can live in darkness most of the day. But, those little changes in the Fall, when it gets dark around 4 o’clock and your wondering, “Is it bedtime yet?” I’m so glad Spring is only 12 days away!

The first day of Spring has even more significance in my family, as it represents the first day of the Iranian New Year (read more about Nowruz here). I have already bought my daughter’s new outfit for that day, that’s the easy part. I will have to find some new shirts for the boys this week. My husband and I gave up on showering ourselves with new outfits!

We don’t break out the champagne like we do in the U.S. or stay up for the countdown to midnight. This year, the new year changes over Saturday March 20th at 10:32 am (PST). That is, according to one source. My father-in-law gets the official information off of his satellite and his Persian television shows. Since it will occur in the morning, we will probably take a break in the afternoon and return to gather and have our traditional meal.

The one meal that you MUST eat to celebrate Nowruz is Persian Herbed Rice (Sabzi Polo). The fresh herbs used in this dish represent rebirth, as everything that died in the winter is alive again for the spring. And the fish is a symbol for good luck in the coming year.

Now Sabzi Polo can be made to your liking, with an assortment of herbs, but highlighting dill. We like to use dill, parsley, cilantro and green onions. The quantity of the herbs used is also based on preference. I have had sabzi pollo where you don’t see one grain of white rice. My kids won’t eat that. They like it to see some white rice, so I’ve toned down the herbs a little to our family’s taste. So, you decided for yourself which you prefer.

Fresh Citrus Striped Bass Stuffed with Quinoa by

My mother-in-law typically uses the whole fish and fries it. I prefer to bake my fish. Either way, fish is typically served with Sabzi Polo.

We like to serve sour oranges (narenj) with our fish as they are ready this time of year. A great alternative to fresh lemons or limes. Check your local middle-eastern markets for this jewel of a find. Which reminds me of a funny story from my college days. My future hubby and I were picking narenjes along a residential road in Tucson, and filling up the trunk of his car with them. A cop drove by and stopped next to us. We began to sweat.

“You know they are bad, don’t you?” he asked.

We assured him we did, and he went on his way, thinking we were nuts!

Sabzi Polo is a great side dish for most any cut of meat, even your Easter Lamb.

Persian Herbed Rice (Sabzi Polo)

A truly symbolic dish to celebrate the first day of spring is this aromatic rice dish, which is filled with fresh green herbs. It is typically served with white fish, a symbol for good luck. Recipe by Laura Bashar of Family Spice


  • 3 cup basmati rice
  • 16 cup water
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 TBS hot water
  • 3 TBS butter, unsalted, melted
  • 1/2 tsp saffron, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cup dill, fresh, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, American, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds


  1. In a medium-sized bowl soak with water:
    • 3 cup basmati rice
  2. Gently wash rice by stirring it in the water with your hand. This helps wash the starch and grit out. Pour out water and repeat two more times.
  3. After washing rice a third time, let it soak in:
    • 8 cup water
    • 1/2 tsp salt
  4. In a small bowl mix:
    • 1 TBS hot water
    • 3 TBS butter, unsalted , melted
    • 1/2 tsp saffron , crushed
  5. In another bowl combine:
    • 1 1/2 cup dill, fresh , chopped
    • 1 cup parsley, American , chopped
    • 1/2 cup green onions , chopped
    • 3/4 cup cilantro, fresh , chopped
  6. Bring to boil in a 5-quart non-stick pot:
    • 8 cup water
    • 1/2 tsp salt
  7. When water in pot has come to boil, drain the rice. Add the drained rice to the boiling water.
  8. When the water returns to a boil and the rice floats to the top (approximately 6 mins), strain the contents of the pot through a fine colander. You know your rice is ready to strain if you bite a rice kernel and the center is uncooked.
  9. Return pot to burner, set heat to medium and add:
    • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  10. Line the bottom of the pot in one layer with:
  11. 8 oz russet potatoes , peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  12. Using a spatula, gently scoop drained rice from the colander and scatter throughout the pot, over the potatoes, forming one layer. Make sure you do not push the rice in together as this will result in mushy rice.
  13. Over the scattered rice use a spatula to scatter a spatula-full of herb-mixture forming another layer.
  14. Continue alternating layers of white rice and herbs, until finished.Your pot should not be filled to the very top as you need 3 inches of empty space for the steam.
  15. Pour the saffron mixture over the top of rice.
  16. Cover the lid of your pot with a clean towel or several paper towels, and set firmly over your pot to prevent steam from escaping. The towel will keep the condensation from dropping back into your rice and turning the rice into mush.
  17. After 10 minutes, lower heat to low and let rice finish cooking for another 45 minutes.
  18. Using a spatula, gently scoop rice out and onto serving platter. On the bottom you will find the crust (called "ta-dig"). Place the crust pieces along the platter.
  19. If the crust won't come out of the pot, stick the bottom of the pot in a sink filled with a couple inches of cold water. This will help the crust release.

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