Recipe: Sabzi Polo (Herbed Rice) for Norouz/Nowruz

By Bardia Ilbeiggi 

Oh, to travel. We might not be able to physically go anywhere right now, we can still scratch that wanderlust itch a bit with the foods we eat. With Norouz/Nowruz (the Persian New Year) coming up on March 20, I asked my real-life Persian friend, Bardia, about how they celebrate. And so, the Vancouver-based, soon-to-be-a-restauranteur, legit (yet humble) chef, shared his Sabzi Polo recipe with us. Bardia’s recipe has been tweaked to be fool-proof in your home kitchen. Sabzi Polo is crispy, nutty, aromatic, tangy and herby all at the same time, with two different textures of rice – so do it, do it, do it!
After cooking in Paris, Copenhagen and Vancouver, it’s time for him to show us how they do things in Iran (but with west coast magic). Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect:
“I left Iran eighteen years ago and throughout these years, cooking and eating Iranian food kept me connected to my roots. Later on, when I became a chef and after I explored different cuisines, I realized that I can draw genuine inspiration from that connection to create interesting food. I use memories of my mother’s cooking, my travels through Iran and my knowledge of seasonal ingredients to come up with dishes that are approachable and, in my opinion, very tasty!”

Bardia Ilbeiggi

Sabzi Polo / serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 250g Persian or basmati rice
  • 30g fresh parsley (chopped, large stems discarded)
  • 30g fresh cilantro (chopped, large stems discarded)
  • 30g fresh dill (chopped, large stems discarded)
  • 35g green onion (chopped)
  • 5g garlic (chopped)
  • 15g butter
  • 10g grapeseed oil
  • 100g plain yoghurt
  • 1 small pinch of Persian saffron (added to 10mL boiling water)

Step-by-step:

  • Soak the rice in lukewarm water for an hour.
  • In a pot, season 1.5L of water with 20g of salt and bring to boil.
  • Carefully add the rice to the boiling water, bring to simmer and cook for 8 minutes until it reaches an al-dente texture.
  • Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Let the rice sit in the strainer until fully dry.
  • Combine the cooked rice with herbs, green onion and garlic. 
  • Mix 250g of the cooked rice and herb mixture with yoghurt and saffron water.
  • Heat up the oil and butter in a non-stick pan until the butter starts to foam. Swirl the fat around so it coats the surface of the pan.
  • Transfer the yoghurty rice to the pan and spread it in an even thin layer. {Tip: I find using a small silicone spatula helpful}
  • Top up gently with the rest of the cooked rice.
  • Wrap the lid with a kitchen cloth and cover the pan – this will absorb the steam and allow for the rice to get crispy. 
  • Cook on medium heat for 45 minutes. You should hear the low sound of sizzle at all times.
  • Uncover and check the edges; they should be golden brown.
  • Carefully flip onto a round plate and serve with braised chicken or lamb shank.

Sabzi Polo

About Bardia:

Born and raised in Iran, Bardia moved to Canada in 2003 to study aerospace engineering (did I mention, he’s also very smart). Deciding he’d rather cook than work at IBM, he learned his trade at the Gregoire Ferrandi culinary school in Paris. Moving back to Vancouver in 2012, he’s worked at L’Abattoir and Farmer’s Apprentice, as well as a one-month stage at Relae in Copenhagen. After a bit of COVID-complications last year, Bardia is getting ready to open his own restaurant in Vancouver! Stay tuned. Find him here or check out bardiailbeiggi.com.

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