Shirin Polo is a Persian basmati rice dish traditionally served at weddings and other social occasions. This jeweled rice makes a great side dish to chicken, fish or any roast.
Is it just me or have we been consuming loads of sugar since fall began? Every year, the sugar recipes start because of Halloween and end around New Years. From Halloween candies to Thanksgiving pies and now Christmas cookies, it’s like I am bombarded by sugary treats.
And as a mom, it’s my job to steer by kids through the sugary muck and encourage healthy eating habits. Yes, I am guilty of making sweet desserts, but as I explain to my kiddos, it is not an everyday experience.
Of course they wish it was! Growing up in a Persian household, fruits and dried fruits are our daily dessert. Cookies, candies and cakes are for guests and parties, and are not to be consumed every day.
Why you must try this recipe
In farsi, raisins are called keshmesh. We eat them with our hot tea, snack on them between meals, sprinkle them in our desserts and use them in all aspects of our cooking, sweet and savory. Raisins are a staple in the Persian pantry.
Raisins are naturally sweet, and offer 9% of your daily fiber and potassium, and 6% of your daily iron (per quarter cup serving). It doesn’t take much convincing when I offer them to my kids as a healthy snack.
One very festive Persian rice recipe that uses raisins is Shirin Polo, which translates to “sweet rice.” Shirin Polo, also known as Javaher Polo, or jeweled rice, is typically served at weddings. But, it is also served at other celebratory and festive events.
This dish is not overly sweet, at least not my version. I am not a fan of eating sugar for dinner. But the carrot slices and orange peel are lightly candied before being sprinkled over the rice. The pistachios, almonds and plump raisins finish the meal.
Ingredients you need
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- Basmati rice: Persian rice always uses long grain basmati rice. You want to choose a high quality basmati rice. Many of the varieties you find at the grocery store have less flavor and are processed so they cook faster. You want long grain basmati rice, preferably Indian. Several brands I like are Royal, Pari and Zaffaroni. basmati rice.
- Saffron: Just like basmati rice, you want high quality saffron, too. The amount you need depends on the quality. If you find that your rice is not a vibrant yellow, you are probably using a lesser quality saffron. This is the star of the show and what gives your tahchin its golden color and mouth watering aroma. Look for Persian saffron.
- Potato: I use potato slices for the crust on the bottom of the rice. I prefer russet potatoes but you can also use other varieties, too.
- Oranges: You will use only the zest of the orange. You want thin slices of the peel, not grated.
- Carrot: The carrots are cut into matchsticks and then cooked with a little sugar and cinnamon.
- Almond slivers: You can use slices of almonds if you do not have slivers.
- Pistachios: You want to coarsely chop your pistachios, preferably unsalted.
- Raisins: You can use red and/or golden raisins.
- Pantry staples: Extra virgin olive oil, butter, salt, granulated sugar, ground cinnamon
1. Clean and parboil the rice. I typically wash the rice 3 times with water before cooking it. This keeps it from getting super mushy by removing some of the starch. Cook in salted water until about halfway cooked. When you bite a rice kernel, it should still be raw in the center. Once done, pour thru a fine mesh strainer to drain.
2. Steep the saffron. In a mortar and pestle, grind up the saffron. Add some hot water and let it steep until a deep orange color is developed.
I still have saffron my family has brought for me from Iran, but I still ordered this saffron to try it out. The saffron threads are crimson red, its smells amazing and it produces a bright yellow color to your foods.
3. Cook the rice. Return the pot to the burner, then add oil and potato slices for the crust. Using a spatula, gently scoop the drained rice into the pot. Make sure you do not push the rice in together as this will result in mushy rice.
Scatter the rice throughout the pot, in a pyramid shape until finished. Your pot should not be filled to the top. You will need about 3 inches between the top of your rice and the top of the pot.
Using the handle of a long wooden spoon or another utensil, gently press a hole down the center of the rice to allow the steam to travel freely through the pot. Top with butter.
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.
After a few minutes, reduce the heat to low and let the rice finish cooking for another 45 minutes.
4. Prepare the candied orange peel. Remove the skin from the oranges, scraping out any pith, the white part of the skin. Cut into thin strips about 1-inch long and cook with a little water and sugar until syrupy.
5. Prepare the sweet carrots. Cut the carrots into matchsticks. Cook in some butter with a little sugar and cinnamon until just softened.
6. Toast the nuts. In a small pan, dry toast almonds and pistachios over medium heat. Once toasted, remove from heat and reserve.
7. Warm the raisins. In a small pan over medium-heat combine some butter and raisins. Stir in a little saffron water and reserve.
8. Assemble. When rice is done steaming, scoop out a spatula-full of rice and place in small bowl. Stir in remaining saffron water and stir to make the rice uniformly golden.
Using a spatula to remove the remaining rice and scatter onto your serving platter. Top with the saffron rice. Place the crunchy potatoes around the rice or serve on a separate plate.
Scatter over the top of the rice the reserved candied carrots, candied orange peel, raisins, almond and pistachio slivers.
Recipe tips and FAQs
Shirin Polo is a show piece of a dish and can be served by itself, vegetarian style. But is also goes beautifully with your holiday ham, turkey or roast.
But you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to serve shirin polo. Serve it with a simple roast chicken or even a Persian favorite, lamb shanks. You can even serve it with some plain yogurt. However you serve it, shirin polo is an impressive and beautiful dish.
Shirin polo, Persian sweet rice, is made with basmati rice. It is garnished with a variety ingredients like candied orange peels, sweet carrots slivers, raisins, chopped pistachios and almond slivers.
- 3 cup basmati rice
- 2 TBS salt
- 1 TBS hot water
- ¼ teaspoon crushed saffron
- 1 ½ TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 russet potato, cut into ¼-inch thick circles
- 4 TBS unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 medium-sized oranges
- 2 TBS granulated sugar
- 1 carrot, about 3 ounces
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup almond slivers
- ¼ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup California Raisins, red and/or golden
- In a medium-sized bowl soak rice with water.
- Gently wash the rice by stirring the rice in the water with your hand. This helps wash some of the starch and grit out. Pour out the water and repeat two more times.
- After washing and draining the rice a third time, cover the rice again with water then stir in 1 TBS salt.
- In a small bowl mix hot water and saffron. Set aside for it to steep.
- Fill a 5-quart non-stick pot with 8 cups water and 1 TBS salt. Bring water to boil.
- When the water has come to boil, pour out the water in the bowl containing the soaking rice. Add the wet rice to the boiling water.
- When the water comes to boil again and the rice floats to the top of the pot (approx. 6 mins), pour 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 still uncooked.
- Return the pot to the burner, set heat to medium and add olive oil. Arrange the potato slices onto the bottom of the pot in one single layer.
- Using a spatula, gently scoop the drained rice into the pot. Make sure you do not push the rice in together as this will result in mushy rice. Scatter the rice throughout the pot, in a pyramid shape until finished. Your pot should not be filled to the top. You will need about 3 inches between the top of your rice and the top of the pot.
- Using the handle of a long wooden spoon or another utensil, gently press a hole down the center of the rice to allow the steam to travel freely through the pot.
- Scatter 2 TBS of butter pieces along the top of the rice.
- 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.
- After 7 minutes, lower the heat to low and let the rice finish cooking for another 45 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the toppings.
- Using a sharp knife or peeler remove the skin from oranges. Remove the pith, the white part of the skin, from the peel and cut into thin strips about 1-inch long.
- In a small pan over medium heat add orange peels and ¼ cup water with 1 TBS sugar.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Cut carrots into match-stick size strips.
- In a small pan over medium heat add carrots and 1 TBS butter.
- When carrots soften, about 5 minutes, stir in 1 TBS sugar and cinnamon.
- Cook for another 5 minutes and stir in ½ teaspoon of the saffron water. Remove carrots from heat and reserve.
- In a small pan, dry toast nuts over medium heat. Once toasted, remove from heat and reserve.
- In a small pan over medium-heat combine 1 TBS butter and raisins.
- Cook for 3 minutes then stir in ½ teaspoon of the saffron water. Reserve the raisins.
- When rice is done steaming, scoop out a spatula-full of rice and place in small bowl. Stir in remaining saffron water and stir to make the rice uniformly golden.
- Using a spatula to remove the remaining rice and scatter onto your serving platter. Top with the saffron rice. Place the crunchy potatoes around the rice or serve on a separate plate.
- Scatter over the top of the rice the reserved candied carrots, candied orange peel, raisins, almond and pistachio slivers.
- Serve immediately.
Serving Size:1 scoop
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 416Total Fat: 11.6gSaturated Fat: 4.4gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 934mgCarbohydrates: 70.7gFiber: 2.9gSugar: 7.6gProtein: 7g
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