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 .
What are these bright red, tart, sharp, tangy, mouth puckering berries? Well – they’re Iran’s very own barberries!
When I try to describe these berries to my students, I am always asked what familiar fruit are they most like? “Are they like raisins, or goji berries, or cherries? Oh, I know, are they like cranberries?!”
Quince is an ancient fruit that finds its origin in the Mediterranean and Middle East region, which offers the perfect climate for the tree to flourish. Quince is quite tart, dense and aromatic, and is typically not eaten raw; it is rather cooked in stews or baked in desserts or jams.
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.
I can’t help but smile when I think of sour cherries! They are a highly prized fruit that has found its way into many parts of Persian cuisine, both as a savory and as a sweet ingredient. This dish is another Caspian Sea regional specialty that integrates sour cherries into a stew in the company of small chicken meatballs, all in a gloriously beautiful and tasty saffron broth.
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.