Don’t be fooled by the English translation of this dish. It does it zero justice. Doesn’t it sound boring? Yeah. And pretty lame? Uh, yeah. Loobia polo, as we say in Farsi, is a modest dish. But believe me, it’s anything but modest in flavor. In fact, it’s supercalafajalistickespeealadojus! Mary Poppins probably thought that up after having a delicious plate of loobia polo.
Well, she could have!
OK, so every few years, my favorite Persian dishes rotate. And I actually associate each favorite with a period from my life. Baaghaali polo baa morgh (dill and fava bean rice with braised chicken) was my favorite dish during my childhood. So whenever I smell it, I’m instantly hit with the sensations and memories of being a little girl again. A little girl who actually believed making up words was her job. No wonder Mary Poppins is my favorite Disney “princess!”
Then my favorite Persian dish became ghormeh sabzi, which is a stew of lamb or beef, greens, and either kidney beans or black-eyed peas that’s served alongside Persian white rice. Again, the translation is weak in conveying how special and delicious this dish is. FYI, if you’re lucky enough to taste the marrow from the bones that came out of a pot of ghormeh sabzi… a taste of heaven! Ghormeh sabzi may easily top the list as the most favorite dish for a good majority of Persians. I’d be willing to bet the big bucks that I don’t have on that one.
Well anyway, for the past few years while I’ve been away from my home base in California and while I’ve been in grad school in Chicago, my favorite Persian food has definitely been loobia polo (or beef and green bean rice). It was actually my sister’s favorite meal growing up, and when she’d ask my mom to make it I’d secretly get mad because I usually wanted something different. Looking back, I really should’ve been ashamed of myself because loobia polo is only the best thing ever!
Sister, you had it right all along…
This is our family recipe for loobia polo. To put it very simply, it’s made up of a mixture of ground beef, onions, green beans, and tomato paste, along with a couple spices and then layered with cooked basmati rice and saffron. This is set to steam in order to marry the flavors together, finish cooking the rice, and also create a crispy rice crust (called tahdig) at the bottom of the pot, which anyone in the world who has tried it, loves it dearly. Oh yes, I know this fact.
I just love this meal for this time of year. It’s really comforting and has such gorgeously rich and developed flavors. There’s a secret ingredient that boosts the flavors in this dish by a whole lot and that’s CINNAMON!
I actually didn’t know there was cinnamon in this dish until a couple years back. But now that I think about it, although the cinnamon itself is super subtle, it makes all the difference and probably is the reason why this dish is so cozy and perfect for Fall.
Given a multitude of reasons, some of which include its profuse history, nutritionally sound and balanced recipes using simple and honestly beautiful flavors, exquisite and incomparable preparation of fragrant basmati rice, and its significant contribution and importance to the rich Persian culture, it’s funny that Persian cuisine isn’t as widely popular as other cuisines in the States. But for those who know, oh do they know… it’s good stuff.
I’d love to know if you try this recipe out and how you like it! And also, if you’ve had Persian food before, what’s your favorite dish? If you haven’t tried it before, or even if you have, why not check out some fall-time Persian recipes, posted by some of my lovely fellow food bloggers—links are found below the recipe for loobia polo!
Enjoy and nooshe-jaan (nourishment for your soul)!
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 ½ tbsp turmeric
- 2 large onions, 1 should be pureed using a food processor or box grater, and 1 should be chopped
- 8 heaping tbsp tomato paste
- 2 lbs fresh or frozen green beans (Sometimes the fresh ones have the stringy fibrous bit that should be removed. Also, if you’re using fresh green beans, wash and cut them into thirds.)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus enough to cover the bottom of a large pot for the tahdig (crispy rice), plus enough to cover the bottom of a pan for onions
- 2 tbsp butter (or extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 heaping tbsp cinnamon
- 3 cups of uncooked basmati rice
- ½ tsp ground saffron mixed into ⅓ cup hot water
- salt and pepper to taste
In the spirit of Fall, harvest season, and fun Fall festivities (including the Persian Fall festival AKA Mehregan) here’s some great Persian recipes for the season from some awesome and friendly food bloggers:
Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad
Bottom of the Pot: Broccoli Koo Koo
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew
Coco in the Kitchen: Zeytoon Parvardeh
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto Style
Lucid Food: Sambuseh
Marjan Kamali: Persian Ice Cream with Rosewater and Saffron
My Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin Rice
Noghlemey: Parsi Dal
Parisa’s Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled Rice
Sabzi: Yogurt Soup with Meatballs
The Saffron Tales: Khorosht-e Gheimeh
Simi’s Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy Aubergine Pickle
Turmeric & Saffron: Ash-a Haft Daneh | Seven Bean Soup
The Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh