Sabzi Polo Mahi (Persian Herbed Rice with Fish)

Sabzi Polo Mahi (Persian Herbed Rice with Fish)

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x


Sabzi Polo (Polow) Mahi, Persian Herbed Rice with Fish, is a traditional recipe for Nowruz, the Persian New Year that falls on the first day of spring.



  • 500 g (2 1/2 cups) basmati rice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 large handful of parsley
  • 1 large handful fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • 1 small handful chives
  • 1 small handful fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic


  • 2 Tbsp saffron water
  • 1 tsp salted butter


  • 4 fish fillets of your choice
  • 65g (1/2 cup) plain flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • vegetable oil as needed, for very shallow frying
  • 1 lemon, cut in slices


Let’s Start with the Rice

  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs almost clear and drain.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water with 1 tsp of the salt to boil.
  3. Add the rice, bring back to boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Split the spring onions (scallions) into its green and white parts and slice thinly.
  5. Finely chop the rest of the herbs and place in a large bowl.
  6. Add the green spring onions (scallions) to the herbs and mix well.
  7. When the rice has had its 3-5 minutes of cooking time, it should still have a slight bite in the middle. If you’ve soaked your rice, check it after 3 minutes, get a grain and bite it, it should be soft on the outside and just resistant on the inside, not raw solid but almost cooked solid. If you’ve not soaked your rice, this stage will be around the 5 minute mark but every rice is different.
  8. Drain the rice, rinse with cold tap water, drain and place in a large bowl.
  9. Tip about two thirds of the chopped herbs onto the rice, mix well and set aside.
  10. Rinse the saucepan, dry and heat the 2 Tbsp of butter in it over medium heat.
  11. Sauté the garlic and the white spring onions for one minute, not letting the butter or the garlic burn.
  12. Tip the rice in and stir thoroughly for 30 seconds to coat it with the flavoured butter.
  13. Using your ladle/spatula, bring the rice to the middle, forming a conical shape. The reason for this is that traditional chelow pots were conical, giving you a wide base for your tahdig. Also given the long cooking time, whatever rice that touches the saucepan is going to crisp up slightly. So you want as much of the rice away from the edges as possible.
  14. Using the other end of your spatula, poke some holes into the rice, these are the steam “vents”, to allow the steam to come through.
  15. 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!
  16. Lower the heat right down and cook for 30 minutes.

The Fish

  1. 15 minutes before the end of the rice’s cooking time, we get started on the fish. Tip all the flour onto a wide plate and season it with the salt, turmeric and paprika.
  2. Heat a large frying pan on medium high heat and pour in 2 Tbsp of the oil.
  3. Coat the fish fillets in the seasoned flour and fry the fish, 2 fillets at a time, about 90 seconds each side, depending on the thickness of your fish fillets. Keep warm when done.

Back to the Rice

  1. At the end of the cooking time, take the saucepan off the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Tip half the cooked rice into a large bowl.
  3. Melt the 1 tsp of butter in the microwave oven and mix with the saffron water.
  4. Pour this saffron and butter mix into the bowl of rice and mix in thoroughly but gently, being careful not to break the rice grains up.
  5. Sprinkle the rest of the fresh herbs into the other half of the rice that’s still in the saucepan and mix in.
  6. Dish up the rice as you see in the images or however you like.
  7. Place the 4 fish fillets around the rice, squeeze some lemon juice over the fish and serve immediately.

  • Category: Part of a meal
  • Cuisine: Persian