Sabzi polo mahi

By Suzanne Husseini
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  • 4 fillet sea bass skin on or salmon, tilapia
  • Zest of 1 orange and juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic mashed to a paste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for the skillet
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Herbed rice

  • 3 cups basmati rice (washed to remove excess starch, soaked for 1 hour, drained)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup fresh dill chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup fresh green onion and white, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry dill
  • 3/4 cup melted clarified butter
  • 4 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 pinches of saffron bloomed in 1/2 cup hot water or rosewater
  • Rice spice mixture
  • Ground cinnamon
  • 6 garlic cloves sliced very thin and fried in clarified butter till crisp for garnish



  1. Lightly score the skin of the fish and marinate 30 minutes before cooking with all the ingredients. Set aside till ready.
  2. When the rice is cooked and just before serving.
  3. Place a large nonstick skillet on medium high heat. Add the oil.
  4. Place the fillet skin side down in the hot skillet. Don't remove or flip until it becomes crispy and golden. Most of the cooking will happen at this stage. Flip over for last minute to finish cooking.
  5. Serve alongside the herbed rice.

Herbed Rice

  1. Crush the saffron threads in a pestle and mortar and add in the water or rosewater to bloom and leave aside.
  2. Fry the garlic slices till lightly brown and crisp and set aside.
  3. Combine all the herbs except the dry dill.
  4. Add in the chopped green onions. Set aside.
  5. In a 3qt pot bring 6 cups of water to boil. Add the salt.
  6. Pour in the drained rice to the boiling water. Cook rice for app 6 to 8 minutes till the grains are parboiled, al dente to the bite and will rise to top. Immediately drain in a fine mesh colander and rinse quickly and gently in cold water.
  7. Remove 1 cup of the parboiled rice and mix with 1 cup of yoghurt and 1 tablespoon of saffron mixture and set aside.
  8. In the bottom of a 3 qt pot pour in 1/2 cup melted clarified butter and peanut oil.
  9. Next place the yoghurt/rice mixture on top of butter. 
  10. And now you will layer the rice with the herb mixture.
  11. First place gently in a mound in the centre a scoop of rice, then scatter a handful of herbs mixture, some of the dry dill, sprinkle in the rice spice, cinnamon, salt mixing lightly to incorporate the herbs all with a light hand. Don't deflate the pyramid.
  12. Continue to layer alternating till all ingredients are used. You will end up with a light unpacked mound in the center and space around the rice. This will help the rice expand and finish cooking by steam. 
  13. The fluffiest rice is the goal.
  14. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a few holes in the rice all the way down to the bottom of the pot.
  15. Pour in 1/2 cup water.
  16. Cover lid with a towel to capture the steam. Cover rice. Place pot on stove on medium heat for 10 minutes then lower heat and steam slowly for 30 to 40 minutes.
  17. When it's done, remove cover pour over in circles the saffron mixture and remaining clarified butter.
  18. To serve invert on a platter to reveal the crispy rice on the bottom (tahdig). Garnish with the crispy garlic chips.
  19. Serve with the fish with a lemon cheek. Yogurt also makes a nice side dish to go along with it. 


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