So much of this dish is familiar and comforting, not just to Iranians but also in many cultures around the world. This definitely makes it to most Persians’ top 10 list of favorite rice dishes, albeit under different regional names and slightly different cooking methods.
I love Adas Polo not only for its simplicity and color but also for the balance and harmony of ingredients, creating a great foundation for whatever you serve this dish with. I have prepared it here with stewed beef, while others may prefer a flavorful roasted chicken, or if you are Shomali (a term for people from northern Iran by the Caspian Sea), you want this with Nimroo (sunny side up eggs). There is something so satisfying about breaking into the egg yolk and watching the rich and bright yolk get blended into the rice. It’s no secret that I love eggs, and I love how easily and without any sacrifice this dish can be transformed to become vegetarian-friendly.
To prepare this dish is to be reminded of a stately dance, each flavor in turn taking the spotlight and then merging into the background to let another one take the lead. This elegant dance of all the salty and sweet elements is bathed in the gentle light of the saffron that suffuses the dish with brightness and poise.
Maybe you are drawn to the savoriness of the fried onions and the richness of the stewed meat or the fried eggs. Perhaps you would enjoy a sprinkling of sweet dates or raisins to accompany you through this flavor journey. Either way, there’s no right or wrong: Adas Polo is an experimentation with flavors, techniques, and preferences.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, or butter or ghee
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 pound beef, or lamb, cut into 1.5 to 2 inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt, adjust as needed
- 1 1/4 cups lentils, grey/green variety
- 4-5 cups water
- 2 cups basmati rice, soaked and rinsed
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling the rice and will be rinsed out
- 3 tablespoons butter, or ghee or olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 6-8 pieces dates
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron, ground and dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water
- In a medium sized pot, saute the onion over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil for about 10 minutes.
- Add the beef pieces and toss around the pan over medium-high heat until they have turned light brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, turmeric, pepper and saute for a couple of more minutes until the meat is coated with the spices and become more aromatic.
- Add 1 cup of water, reduce heat to low and simmer for 60 minutes.
- Add the salt and continue to cook for 15-30 minutes longer or until the beef is fork tender.
- Keep warm until serving.
- In a medium saucepan, place the lentils and 4 cups of water and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are mostly but not entirely cooked. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium sized frying pan, saute the onion with ghee or butter for 15 minutes over medium heat until golden in color.
- Add the remainder of the ingredients and reduce flame to low and saute for up 2-4 minutes until the dried fruit has softened and come to life.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Wash rice thoroughly and set aside to soak for one to three hours. Rinse before use.
- In a large covered pot, bring 8 cups water, turmeric and salt to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 5-8 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened. Drain the rice in a colander, rinse and set aside.
- Place 2 tablespoons of oil over low heat in the same heavy bottom pot.
- Spread enough of the rice, around 1 cup to evenly cover the bottom of the pot. This will be the crispy rice referred to as Tahdig.
- Combine the partially cooked strained lentils with the remainder of the rice and gently mix.
- Place this mixture over the rice already in the pan.
- Cut the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into pieces and place on top of the rice lentil 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.
- Once the rice is cooked, cautiously and swiftly invert the rice out of the pot onto a large serving platter.
- Arrange the beef stew around the platter and garnish with the saffron raisins and dates.
- Serve with plain yogurt or pickled vegetables.