Ask an Iranian what their favorite rice dish is, and they’ll likely say it’s Lubia Polo. They’ll then proceed to tell you how they make their version and why it’s the best! Though quite simple in composition, this dish has such richness because of the way the ingredients are cooked and the integration of lots of umami flavors such as tomato paste, turmeric, and cinnamon!
On a visit with my mom recently, we reminisced about this dish and prepared it together, exploring the various traditions and techniques associated with this well-known dish. She recalled how she used to make it for us in Tehran using good-quality lamb meat with a thin layer of fat. She very specifically used an aromatic and flavorful oil called Roghan Kermanshahi, which is a type of sheep or beef ghee from the city of Kermanshah.
As you might expect, it’s hard to find Roghan Kermanshahi in the suburbs of Chicago, so we opted to use European style butter in its place. With a good quality cut of beef (with some marbling), and a flavorful Italian tomato paste, the result was simply divine!
It never ceases to amaze me how a familiar flavor or scent can stir up so many emotions, memories, and thoughts. My aunt Azar made the world’s best Lubia Polo!
- 6 tablespoons ghee or butter,
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 4 cups fresh green beans, (150 g) cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 pound stewing beef or lamb (450 g) cubed, about 1 inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups basmati rice, (370 grams) soaked for one hour or up to overnight
- 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling the rice and will be rinsed out
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch thick rounds
- In a large sized frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of ghee and saute the onion over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add turmeric and saute for an additional couple of minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside in a medium sized bowl.
- Add 2 additional tablespoons of ghee and saute the green beans over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove from the pan and add to the bowl with the sauted onions.
- Using the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of ghee and saute the cubed beef on high heat for about 5 minutes. Lower the flame, cover and cook the beef in its own juice for about 20 minutes.
- Return the onion and green beans mixture to the pan, add salt, pepper, cinnamon and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes until the tomato paste has been well integrated into the dish.
- Add the lemon juice and about 1/2 cup of water to the pan, cover and cook over low flame for 30 minutes. The green beans and meat should have softened at this stage. Adjust the water as needed and keep in mind that the stew should be thick and not watery at the end.
- While the stew is cooking, rinse the soaked rice several times and bring 8 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil.
- Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 5-7 minutes. The rice should still have some texture and density to it.
- Drain the rice in a large colander and set aside while you prepare the pan.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a nonstick pot and arrange the sliced potatoes on the bottom. This will be the crispy potato tahdig!
- Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and a 1/3 of the green beans mixture into the pot and repeat until all of the rice and the green beans have been layered in the pot. Gently mix the rice and the beans mixture to have a more uniform mixture.
- Wrap the lid with a clean towel and place on top of the pot. Allow the rice to steam over a medium-low to medium heat for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Select a large tray or platter to place on top of the pan and carefully and swiftly invert the rice onto the platter.
- Serve the rice with a piece of butter on top and a side of yogurt or Persian pickled eggplants.