Reshteh polo is a Persian dish of rice and noodles that is customarily eaten during Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Some families have it on the eve and others, for dinner on the day itself.
Similar noodle and rice dishes, as well as couscous and rice, are to be found all over the region, like the Lebanese Riz bi Sha’rieh.
What are Reshteh?
Reshteh are Persian wheat noodles. As you can see in the image below, there are 2 types, the plain, dried variety which are commonly used to make ash, or soup. And the fried ones, (top of the image), used in our reshteh polo today.
In Farsi, the word also means string. The noodles, or the strings, represent Life’s path, in whatever shape and form it may take. So eating reshteh on Norooz is one’s way of taking control of one’s life and what lies ahead in the coming year.
As explained on the Nowruz page, the Persian New Year is about renewal and celebrating a new day, which is what Norooz means. Much of the food prepared on the day symbolises this very fact, birth and renewal.
In the CNY, noodles also represent Life. However, we are meant to keep the noodles whole; cutting the noodles will cut one’s life and fortune in half (or however many bits!).
In Persian tradition, we break the noodles up in this recipe before using them. This symbolises taking control of one’s life and destiny, like the ones below.
Any egg free wheat noodles will do, whether it’s thin pasta or Chinese noodles. Before using them in this recipe, just lightly fry them in a little butter and olive oil for 3 minutes or so, just to brown and add a nutty flavour.
You don’t need much oil, we are toasting them more then frying them. So 1 tablespoon of EV olive oil and 1 Tbsp of salted butter will suffice, on low heat.
How to cook Reshteh Polo
We cook it in the same way that we would cook the basic Persian steamed rice. I suggest you read that post to get an idea of the principles behind cooking Persian rice, including the type of rice to use.
What we’ll be doing different today, is the tahdig. In today’s rice, we’ll be making a potato tahdig. So all you folks who have written to me asking for it, here you are!
This is what we will be doing:
- make the liquid saffron
- parboil the rice and noodles
- prepare the fruit for the recipe
- start with a layer of potatoes
- top with rice and steam
- dish up
Reshteh Polo Recipe and Ingredients
Besides the rice and noodles, we have a variety of other ingredients that go in making this dish. Some families make elaborate versions of it, with multiple flavourings with fruit and nuts, and even the much loved barberries. Some, like me, keep it fairly simple, with just
- And for a little bit of colour, pistachios as a garnish
You will know by now that we convert the saffron strands into liquid saffron before using them in Persian cooking. As a matter of fact, I do that with all my recipes, of whatever origin.
Onions, Raisins and Dates in Reshteh Polo
We sauté all these separately in some olive oil and butter, although you can do the raisins and dates together, if you like. The onions are fried to a brown stage while the fruit are lightly done. They add a wonderful sweet and caramelised flavour to the rice, as we’ll be layering the rice with them.
How to Serve Reshteh Polo
Before we get cooking, if you are wondering what to serve reshteh polo with, you’ll find some examples below. Any grilled or roast meat will be perfect here. Given the time of year, lamb is always a great choice to pair up with reshteh polo.
Noushe jan! | !نوش جان
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Reshteh polo, a traditional Persian recipe of rice and noodles that is customarily eaten during Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
- Liquid Saffron
- A pinch of saffron (about 20 pistils, if you’re counting!)
- tiny pinch of salt
- 6 Tbsp hot water
- 400g (2 cups) basmati rice
- 200g (7oz) reshteh (they can’t really be measured in a cup)
- 2 large onions, sliced in rings
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) raisins
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) pitted dates, chopped roughly
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp EV olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large potato, sliced thinly, see picture above
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 2 Tbsp EV olive oil
- a sprinkle of salt
- some slithered or chopped pistachios
Let’s Start with the Liquid Saffron
- Crush the saffron and salt, using a pestle and mortar, to a powder. The salt aids the crushing. A round and round motion is better here than pounding, because the saffron pistils are fairly tiny and flat.
- Add the hot water, and leave to stand while you get all the other ingredients ready.
Parboiling the Rice and Noodles
- Bring a large, roomy saucepan full of water to boil on high heat. Add the salt to it.
- Rinse your rice.
- When the water is boiling, tip the rice and noodles in and bring back to boil on medium heat. Cook for 7 minutes, then drain the rice and give it a rinse in cool/cold tap water (depending on the season). Drain and set aside. While the rice and noodles are boiling, let’s attend to the onions, raisins and dates.
Onions, raisins and dates
- Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a roomy frying pan over medium heat. Tip in the sliced onion rings and fry on this heat for 1 minute.
- Then lower the heat down to medium-low and fry for a good 5-7 minutes until your onions are a golden brown. Tip out onto a plate.
- In the same pan, fry the dates for 1 minute, in 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil. Tip out.
- Next, follow with the dates, in 1/2 Tbsp of oil again, again for about a minute. The chopped up dates will most likely clump up, don’t worry about it. We’ll break them up when using. Tip out onto a plate.
Steaming the Rice, starting with potato tahdig.
- Wash out and dry the saucepan you used to parboil the rice, then place it on medium heat.
- Heat the 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of olive oil, swirling to coat the base thoroughly.
- Line the base of the pan with the potato slices, making up 2 layers. Press down with a spatula.
- Gradually add half the rice on top of the tahdig, ladle by ladle. Season with a small sprinkle of salt and some pepper.
- Scatter half the onions, raisins and dates all over. And drizzle 2 Tbsp of the liquid saffron all over. Finally top with pinches of 2 Tbsp of butter.
- Follow with the rest of the rice, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle another 2 Tbsp of liquid saffron all over.
- Using your ladle, bring the rice in from the edges, forming a slight conical shape.
- Wrap the saucepan lid up with the towel and place on the saucepan, ensuring it’s a tight fit. The towel is there to absorb any excess moisture, preventing soggy rice. Make sure your tea towel is nowhere near the flame!
- Cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, then lower the heat right down and let the rice steam away for 40 minutes. You will end up with a beautiful golden brown potato tahdig, with tiny burnt bits. The best part!
- When the rice is done, take it off the heat, top with pinches of 2 Tbsp of butter, cover, and leave to rest for 10 minutes before you start dishing up.
Serving Reshteh Polo
- Dish up the rice onto a large platter, being careful not to break up the potato tahdig. Top the rice with the remaining liquid saffron, onions, raisins and dates.
- Finish off with some pistachios, if using.
- Carefully lift out the tahdig and serve up on a different plate. Or you could break it up and surround your reshteh polo with it. Noushe jan!
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Persian