A traditional and popular dish from the city of Shiraz, Kalam Polo consists of cabbage and small meatballs layered into rice, with – of course – an exotic combination of spices, herbs and flavors.
Shiraz, known for its beautiful gardens and its deep poetic tradition (it was the home of both Hafez and Sa’adi), is also a significant contributor to Persian cuisine, to which it brings its own unique identity. Shirazis are proud of the many local ingredients and foods that reflect the region’s climate, culture and lifestyle. Shiraz wine, anyone?!
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.
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.
This is Zereshk Polo, a distinguished Persian dish.
The popular Zereshk Polo features many of the elements of Persian cooking. Barberries, which are quite tart and bright in color, are layered within the fluffy Basmati rice and served with succulent chicken, or if you prefer with lamb or beef .
Name a culture, and you will quickly realize how many dishes start with some member of the onion family. Onions and all of their relatives are cherished and celebrated in Iranian culture. The onion family includes red, white and yellow onions, green onions, garlic, leeks, garlic chives and shallots. And in Iran, you also have Museer, which is an Iranian variety of shallot that most closely resembles elephant garlic, as well as Tarreh, which is a cross between American leeks and green onions. In the US these ingredients are available dried at Persian markets.
Rice is at the front and center of the Persian table, and there are quite a few techniques for preparing it, from simple steamed rice to more complex rice dishes in which various ingredients are layered into the rice to create a one-pot meal.
Today I found myself wanting to stay close to home and do all kinds of domestic things. After the chores had been knocked off one by one, I was still longing to do something comforting and truly homey.
Naturally, I ended up in the kitchen, and I started to explore some less well-known Persian recipes. I found myself changing them around just a little to suit my craving for comfort food.
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!
Keeping company with Samin Nosrat (“Salt Fat Acid Heat” on Netflix) and Andy Baraghani (Senior Food Editor, Bon Appetit) on Rachel Belle’s podcast! Rachel Belle has an awesome podcast called “Your Last Meal” in which she interviews people from all walks of life about their favorite food.
On February of 2019, I was honored to be interviewed about Persian rice and the delectable tahdig in an episode that also featured the lovable and brilliant Samin Nosrat and Andy Baraghani.
This is one of many mixed rice dishes in Persian cuisine and I would say my second favorite! Favorite being ZereshkPolo, rice with barberries and saffron. This rice dish is typically served with stewed beef or lamb as well as roasted or stewed chicken with the usual Persian spice mixture called advieh. A side of yogurt or fire roasted pickled eggplants (Liteh Bademjan) would complete this dish!
There are a few variations to this dish and the fava bean can be replaced by lima beans and the herbs can be expanded to include parsley, cilantro, fenugreek leaves as well.