MIXED RICE

Never reaching the heights of supremacy of the mighty kebabs, lagging behind the heavenly slow-cooked khureshes (stews) and white rice, are the humble mixed rices; the hard workers, if you will, of the Persian cuisine scene.
Although seldom talked about and rarely served at fancier parties, mixed rices are in fact a mainstay of Iranian kitchens- if you are of Iranian descent or have an Iranian roaming around somewhere near you, I’ll bet you had at least one mixed rice dish over the past week.
My mother has a memory of her father being served a mixed rice dish at a more formal mehmooni, and he was so shocked and insulted that he walked out, or ate it but later vowed never to eat there again- I can’t remember which. That is not important- this little gem of memory is used to illustrate the lowly stature of mixed-rice dishes: good for women and children on work-days, good for the close family, but never, unless served with a suitably impressive joint of meat, for guests. Thus, baghali-polo ba mahicheh (dilled rice and fava beans served with mutton) or zereshk polo ba morgh (saffroned rice with red berries and chicken) is fit for a wedding, but lobiya polo (rice with runner beans) or adas polo (rice with brown lentils) is not, however much ground beef or meatballs is added to the rice mixture. As for more desperate measures, such as cabbage-and-rice or carrot-and-rice, many would consider them an affront to the saints and allah himself.

Hereby, I declare this food snobbery obsolete, and I fight for mixed-rice to find its proper place in the Persian cuisine hierarchy. While it is true that mixed rices are fairly easy and cheap to make, the fact the remains that they are generally, delicious. In fact, a simple well-made mixed-rice dish, in my opinion, beats out a suspicious greasy kabab or over-boiled and not-quite-properly-made khuresh any day.

Plenty of fried onions, spiced with turmeric, red pepper, a mashed garlic clove and a dash of cinnamon. A spoonful of tomato paste. Good basmati rice. Something else. (beans, lentils, split peas, shredded cabbage, whatevs). Ground beef optional. Awesome.

Adas Polow-TS

2 comments

  1. You are absolutely right. A properly made polo outperforms every kebab, both in terms of complexity of taste, which can even be multiplied by serving it with various fresh vegetable salads, but also in terms of its nutrition values. In our family, we have a permanent competition between polo I use to cook following an uzbek recipe (mainly with fine lamb, onion and carrots) and my wifes preferred chicken polo. We use to invite friends from other “polo/pilaw/plow” nations every summer for a garden polo contest. All of them, from Afghanistan, Iran or Turkey, are a revalation amidst the awful barbecue epidemy, even one variant that a friend of us provided: Pork polo, the ever present dish of all soviet canteens.
    By the way, what you a little bit sloppy call red berries (for zereshk polo ba morgh) are in fact berberries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berberis).
    Regards and enjoy cooking and serving the guests,
    Michael

  2. Isn’t it served with lamb shank rather than mutton? Or are they the same?

    PS. I’m mastering the art of loobia polo. Excellent results.

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