Sabzi Polo ba Mahi
Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is a time for letting go of the past, nibbling on nan-e berenji and other goodies, and connecting with family and friends. It’s also a great time to make sabzi polo ba mahi, or herbed rice with fish — a light, bright, fresh dish that’s perfect for welcoming spring and celebrating new beginnings.
In Iran, the dish is typically made with fish native to the region, such as Caspian kutum. Seeing as we’re more than a hop, skip, and a jump away from Iranian waters, we instead dredge a nice, meaty piece of cod in a blend of salt, pepper, cornstarch, and turmeric. Pan-fried in nutty ghee, the fish cooks up beautifully tender with a golden, delicately crispy crust.
The cod is made even better by the rice pilaf and its many layers of flavor: There’s some nutty depth from coconut oil and ghee. The blend of parsley, cilantro, dill, watercress, and green onion creates herbaceous nuance — think bright, peppery, and remarkably fresh. And last but not least, the saffron rounds everything out with its sweet, floral fragrance.
Altogether, it’s a pleasant, refreshing dish, perfect for Nowruz gatherings — but also whenever you want a dinner that’s on the lighter side.
Our tips: Sabzi polo ba mahi works with just about any white fish, like halibut or sea bass. Also, we love a squeeze of fresh lime juice over the dish — it adds just the right amount of zippy acid to brighten the fish and accentuate all the herbs.
Sabzi Polo ba Mahi
To make the rice: Soak the rice in lukewarm water for 1 to 6 hours; the longer the rice soaks, the fluffier it will be.
Drain and rinse the rice. Add the rice and salt to a medium stockpot, and fill the stockpot with water.
Bring the rice to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the rice softens and starts to float to the top of the water, about 8 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.
In a medium bowl, gently toss together the parsley, cilantro, dill, watercress, and green onions.
Melt the coconut oil in the warm stockpot. Scatter ⅓ of the rice into the pot, being careful to not shake the pot or else the rice will compact. Cover the rice with ⅓ of the chopped herbs, spoon in another ⅓ of the rice, another ⅓ of the herbs, and the remaining rice. Cover the remaining herbs with plastic wrap and set them aside in the refrigerator.
Mix the melted ghee with the crushed saffron and drizzle it over the rice.
Wrap the stockpot lid with a kitchen towel, then cover the pot. Cook the rice on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes.
Uncover the rice and carefully toss it. Stir in the remaining fresh herbs.
To make the cod: In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the ghee for 1 minute.
In a shallow bowl, combine the cornstarch, kosher salt, black pepper, and turmeric.
Dredge the cod fillets in the cornstarch, one at a time, coating all sides, and shaking off any excess.
Gently place the fillets in the skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip the fillets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145°. Serve the fish hot over the herbed rice.
Recipe source: Food & Wine