Meygoo Polo originated in Iran’s southern provinces of Khuzestan and Bushehr. It’s not surprising that this seafood dish comes from provinces that are located on the shores of the Persian Gulf.
Meygoo is the Farsi word for prawns, which are a staple for the residents of the Persian Gulf region. This dish brings together warming spices and blends them with cups of fresh herbs, all layered in a pot full of light and fluffy rice. As with most traditional dishes, local and regional touches influence the specific ingredients.
This dish could be made with fewer herbs and more spices, and it could also be accompanied by raisins or barberries, pistachios or slivered almonds, or even taken up a notch and made spicier. Some varieties will add tamarind to heighten the sour notes, while others rely on date molasses to bring out deep and rich sweet flavors.
As a kid growing up in Tehran oh so many years ago, Meygoo was not yet entirely known or as readily available on tables throughout Iran. I think I may have had my first prawn in my teenage years in the mid-’70s. Coming from the northern province of Mazandaran by the shores of the Caspian Sea, my family was more familiar with white-fleshed fish than the strange-looking shellfish of the Persian Gulf!
I can still remember my mother’s face when she saw prawns for the first time. It was a look of “I am probably not going to eat you, ever”, and as far as I know, she hasn’t!
- 4 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon cumin, seeds
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves, dried
- 2 cups rice, soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
- 8 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt, for boiling the rice and will be rinsed out
- 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil,
- 1 tiny pinch ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 pound prawns, shelled, cleanned, rinsed and dried
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger, powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon Golpar (Persian hogweed), ground
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- 1 fresh lime, juiced
- 1 green onion, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- In a medium sized frying pan, saute the onion with ghee for 15 minutes over medium heat until golden in color.
- Add garlic, cumin and turmeric and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining fresh and dried herbs to the pan and saute for an additional 2 minutes to blend all the herbs and spices with the onion. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large covered pot, bring 8 cups water 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.
- Melt 2 tablespoons ghee in a non-stick pot over low heat.
- In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice with 2 tablespoons of saffron-water mixture, gently mix and spread evenly in the bottom of the pot. This will be the crispy rice referred to as Tahdig.
- Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and a 1/3 of the herb mixture into the pot and repeat until all of the rice and herbs have been layered in the pot. Gently mix the rice and herbs to create a 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.
- 10 minutes before the rice finishes cooking begin preparing the prawns.
- In a medium sized bowl combine the prawns with all of the spices and salt and toss to fully coat the prawns.
- In a large sized frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and place the prawns in the pan and saute for about 1-2 minute on each side.
- Prawns should turn a bright red color when cooked.
- Splash the prawns with the fresh lime juice and remove from the pan.
- Once the rice is cooked, cautiously and swiftly invert the rice out of the pot onto a large serving platter.
- Arrange the prawns decoratively on or around the rice platter and garnish with green onions and cilantro.