Persian New Year (Nowruz) is celebrated every year to signify the beginning of spring. In our home, nothing says spring like Sabzi Polo va Mahi. This delicious traditional New Year dish is supposed to bring luck – the herbs in the rice represent rebirth and the fish represents life.
Like all Persian dishes everyone has their own version but I share with you my mother’s recipe. Fluffy rice perfumed with fragrant herbs and spices and delicious crispy golden fish. Spring is in the air!
Sabzi Polo va Mahi
3 cups basmati rice
1 cup dill, chopped
1 cup chives (or you have use the greens part of green onions), chopped
1 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh fenugreek (optional)
4 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground saffron
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp chopped dill stems (optional)
4 tbsp butter
salt & pepper
Fried Fish (recipe to follow)
Wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate it with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear.
After the rice is washed cover with 8 cups lukewarm water and 1 1/2 tbsp of salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes. The longer it soaks, the more flavourful and fluffy the rice will be.
Fill a large non-stick pot ¾ full with water with 1 tbsp salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaking rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the dill, chives, cilantro, flat leaf parsley and the fenugreek to the water and simmer for about 2 minutes and then drain in a wire sieve.
In a small bowl combine the cumin, cinnamon and the ground saffron.
Clean out and dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil in your pot to just cover the bottom. Add two tablespoons of water and the dill stems (optional).
Using a spatula add a layer of rice to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1 tsp of garlic and 1/4 of the spice mixture.
Add the rice in layers forming sort of a pyramid (about 4 layers total). In between each layer sprinkle some of the garlic and the spice mixture. You can also add an extra dash of ground saffron on the top if you desire. Pour 1/3 cup water over the top of the rice and the butter.
Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke three holes in the rice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat to medium low and take a clean dish towel (or a double layer of paper towel) and cover the lid of the pot Let the rice steam for 30-40 minutes.
When the rice is done, use a spatula to gently sprinkle the rice onto a serving dish. Invert the pot onto a plate to loosen the ta-dig.
Mahi (Pan-Fried White Fish)
3 large fillets of white fish cut into 12 pieces (skin on or off depending on your preference)
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
salt and pepper
Season the fish with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs with the saffron water. Marinate the fish pieces in the egg mixture for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
Pour enough canola oil into a large frying pan so that there is a 1/4 inch of oil at the bottom. Heat the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (to check heat add a tiny splash the egg marinade to the pan, it should sizzle right away). Add the fish pieces in batches (do not crowd the pan).
Cook the first side until golden and crispy (about 5-6 minutes). Flip over and cook the second side until golden (about 4 minutes). Drain on paper towel.
This fish is traditionally served with wedges of Seville Orange (use lemons or limes if you can’t find any)- squeeze some of the juice over the fish just before eating. Enjoy!