Although this dish is prepared all throughout the year in my home, traditionally sabzi polo baa maahi is prepared on the Persian New Year, which occurs with the start of Spring. It’s full of delicious green herbs and garlic, making the rice so fragrant and fresh. You can eat this rice with practically any protein you like, but when I prepare it fresh I love to pair it with salmon. Then the leftover rice is great with scrambled eggs, fried eggs, or a good quality canned tuna in oil.
Original sabzi polo baa maahi recipes call for whitefish, which in Iran is freshly caught from the Caspian Sea. But salmon is such an easy find here in the States and as an oily fish it delivers vitamins A, D, and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit our brain function! I feel like I’m really doing my body good when I cook and eat this dish.
Persian rice is definitely a culture all its own within the domain of Persian cuisine. It’s a BIG deal for us Persians and typically needs some practice to get right. Or maybe not if you’re lucky—but that wasn’t me! But let me just say, it’s worth it and will change the way you view rice forever. At least that's what I believe!
Persian rice starts and ends quite differently than any other kind of rice. It’s a very long-grain basmati rice that is rinsed many times until the water starts to run clear. It’s less starchy than other types of rice, so when it’s cooked every grain of rice is separate and anything but sticky.
We Persians love making tahdig (crisped rice, bread, or sliced potatoes at the bottom of the rice pot) when cooking rice. It makes for a nice and crunchy, golden treat to eat alongside the meal. You can see the crispy tahdig sitting right on top of the rice in the photo of the finished dish. So yum! I’ll include the way I prepare tahdig in this recipe as well.
In this particular recipe I will add herbs to the rice, but plain Persian rice would have that step left out. For example, when I make Persian chicken and rice, I make the rice the same way, just without the herbs. Then I’d pair it with the chicken. Please don’t be afraid to try cooking Persian rice in your own home. Honestly, I believe it is its own art form, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult by any means either. Again, not hard, just needs some lovin’ and you’ll definitely get it.
I hope you try this dish out and love it as much as we do at home. It’s garlicky, full of herb goodness, fresh, but at the same time, beautifully rich. This dish is just so fragrant and tasty. Here’s my family recipe and let me know how it goes for you if you try it! And as we say in Farsi, nooshe jaan, or nourishment for the soul!
Herbed Rice with Salmon (Sabzi Polo baa Maahi)
- 3 cups basmati rice rinsed under cold water until water runs clear (approximately 5 times)
- 2 large bunches of chopped fresh dill or 1 cup dried dill
- 1 large bunch of chopped fresh fenugreek or ½ cup dried fenugreek All Persian markets should have fenugreek. You can also check Indian markets.
- 1 bunch of chopped fresh cilantro or ⅓ cup dried cilantro
- 1 bunch of chopped fresh parsley or ⅓ cup dried parsley
- 1 bunch fresh chives or the green portion from 1 bunch of fresh green onion chopped
- salt for boiling water
- 1 head of garlic with cloves peeled and chopped
- enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of your rice dish plus 2-3 tablespoon melted butter/olive oil to top rice
- ⅓ teaspoon of ground saffron mixed into ¼ cup of hot water
- 3 salmon fillets skin removed (ask your fish guy to do this for you unless you prefer the skin left on)
- ½ tablespoon dried dill or a handful of fresh dill
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoon butter used to top fillets
- olive oil to brush the baking dish
- 1 small lemon or half of a large lemon juiced