Sholeh Zard is a beloved and popular rice pudding that has all the quintessential flavors of a Persian dessert. Fragrant Persian rice is slowly simmered in a large body of water until it begins to soften. One by one, saffron, rosewater and sugar find their way into the pot and diligently do their part to create a creamy, aromatic and vibrant rice pudding that is as familiar to Iranians as apple pie is to Americans.
Javahar Polo (jeweled rice in Farsi), also known as Morasa Polo, is truly the ultimate rice dish that is often served at Persian New Year celebrations or at weddings. But you certainly don’t need to wait for spring equinox or a marriage proposal to treat yourself to this gem (all puns intended!) of a dish.
Persian food is a complex balance of abundance, color, flavor, design and presentation. No other dish matches the sophistication and elegance of this dish and the care given to its presentation. The sparkling ruby color of the barberries is enhanced with glistening, exquisite saffron. Accompanied by emerald green Iranian pistachios, sweet and tenderized carrots and caramelized orange peel, this dish is truly a visual and gastronomic feast.
It’ll be no surprise that rice dishes are cherished and consumed in Persian cuisine. Rice found its way to Iran from China via the silk road, and took root in the Caspian Sea region, where the climate and landscape are very hospitable to rice production.
Recently I’ve been reading about the wide variety of rice that exists in Iran, and have been reminded of the distinctive characteristics of the rice we encountered when we traveled north to the Caspian Sea. I’ve been quite homesick for those familiar scents and flavors! Here in the US, the Basmati rice that I purchase at the Persian grocery store is the closest I’ve found to the rice I remember eating as a child in Tehran, with its signature flavor and texture.