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+ servings

Kalam Polo Shirazi

Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef
Cabbage and rice pilaf with meatballs
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Servings 4



  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or ghee
  • 4 cups cabbage, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Advieh, see notes


  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for a minimum of 1 hour and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup garlic chives, or green parts of scallions, finely chopped
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt, for parboiling the rice (will be rinsed out)
  • 1 tiny pinch ground saffron,  dissolved in 2 tablespoons rose water


  • 1 lb ground beef, or lamb
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or ghee



  • In a large frying pan, heat the oil and saute the onions on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until they look soft and translucent.
  • Add the cabbage and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and Advieh and saute for another 2 minutes. 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 5-7 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened.
  • Add the chopped herbs and continue to boil for 1 minute.
  • Drain the rice in a colander, rinse and set aside.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil 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-rosewater 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 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and then 1/3 of the cabbage mixture into the pot. Repeat until all of the rice and cabbage has been used.
  • 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.


  • Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs with the exception of the olive oil. Mix thoroughly with your hands to achieve a very smooth consistency for the meatballs.
  • This next part requires some dedication and patience! Pick up a small amount of the ground meat mixture and use the palms of your hands to create small walnut-sized meatballs (These small meatballs are called Kal-leh Gonjishki, referencing the small size of a bird's head).
  • Place all the meatballs on a plate until you are ready to saute and cook them.
  • Place the oil in a large frying pan and one by one add the meatballs to the pan. Depending on the size of your frying pan, you may have to do this in two rounds.
  • Saute the meatballs over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes or until the small meatballs are properly cooked and crispy.
  • Remove from the heat and put aside.


  • Once the rice is cooked, cautiously and swiftly invert the rice out of the pot onto a large serving platter.
  • Arrange the meatballs decoratively on or around the rice platter and serve with a side of yogurt, Torshi (pickled vegetables) or Salad-e Shirazi.


  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger, powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
To make this dish vegan friendly, eliminate the meatballs and replace with 2 cups of home made or good quality canned chickpeas. 
Keyword Cabbage, herbs, meatballs, rice
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