Reshteh Polo – Rice with noodles, raisins and dates

Reshteh Polo: another signature Persian dish that blends familiar ingredients and brings them together in an unpredictable and distinctive way!

This rice dish has it all! Dates and raisins; onions and toasted noodles; saffron and rose water; cinnamon and turmeric. Finished off with a crispy bread Tahdig, and served with slow-cooked lamb shanks in a rich broth to bring it all together! Though this dish can be consumed year-round, it is most often associated with the Persian New Year celebration.

A word on toasting

We all love what toasting does to food. Toasting brings out the flavor by exposing it to direct high and intense heat. Think of toasted bread or toasted nuts and seeds that become more aromatic, flavorful, and crunchy as a result.

But whoever thought of toasting noodles? Leave it to Iranians to take an Asian/European ingredient and further adapt it to suit our palate and traditions.

Given the popularity of toasted noodles in Iran, you can actually purchase them, pre-toasted, from the market. Here in the US, I purchase linguine as they best match Iranian Reshteh (noodles in Farsi) in size and appearance and toast them under the broiler.

Word of caution: anything under the broiler requires your full attention, and these noodles are no different. All it takes is about a minute to get the noodles delightfully blistered, aromatic, and golden in color.

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Reshteh Polo

Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef
Rice layered with noodles, dates and raisins
5 from 18 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Main Course, Rice
Cuisine Iranian, Persian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

Lamb

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 2 1/2 pounds lamb shanks
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and sliced in 1/2

Noodles

  • 150 gram Persian noodles (Reshteh), or Linguini.

Rice

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling the rice and will be rinsed out
  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for one hour and rinsed
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

Instructions
 

Lamb

  • In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Add turmeric, stir and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the lamb shanks and saute for another couple of minutes.
  • Add hot water, bring the mixture to a boil before reducing heat. Cover and cook on low heat for 60 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 30-60 minutes or until the lamb shank is completely cooked and fork-tender.
  • Add saffron water, stir and remove from the heat.

Filling

  • In a large frying pan, saute the onion with olive oil for about 15 minutes over medium heat until they have turned lightly golden.
  • Add the cinnamon, turmeric and salt and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Add the raisins and dates and toss to mix. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Noodles

  • Place the noodles single layered on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler for 30-60 seconds.
  • The noodles should be blistered and turned golden in color.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Once cooled, break each piece into 1/3s and set aside.

Rice

  • In a large covered pot, bring 8 cups of water and salt to a boil.
  • Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 5 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened. Add the noodles, stir and remove from the heat.
  • Drain the rice and noodles in a colander, rinse and set aside.
  • Spread four tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pot.
  • In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice-noodle mixture 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.
  • * Alternatively, you can place a piece of lavash flat bread on the bottom of the pot for a bread Tahdig.
  • Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice-noodle mixture and a 1/3 of onion mixture into the pot and repeat until all of the rice and onion mixture have been layered in the pot.
  • Wrap the lid with a clean towel and place it on the pot. Allow the rice to steam over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes.
  • Add the remaining saffron water to the rice and gently fluff using two forks.

Serving

  • Gently remove the rice from the pot and place it on a large serving platter using a large spatula.
  • Remove the Tahdig from the pan and place it on the serving platter.
  • Place the lamb shank on a separate platter with some of the cooking liquid. Alternatively, you can also place the lamb shanks on the large serving platter with the rice.
  • Serve with a side of fresh herbs and yogurt.

Notes

In addition to lamb shanks, you can also prepare this dish with roasted chicken or stewed beef or Persian petite meatballs (Ghel Gheli). 
As always, sunny side up eggs with a touch of salt, pepper and sprinkle of turmeric can also accompany the rice to make it vegetarian friendly. 
Keyword dates, lamb, noodles, raisin, rice, saffron
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