sabzi polow mahi

Sabzi Polo Mahi (Herb Rice with Fish)

sabzi polo mahi (herb rice and fish) is traditionally served for the Persian new year Norooz. Persian New Year is celebrated every year to signify the beginning of spring and most of the dishes served during Norooz holidays have herbs as a symbol of rebirth, and fish that represents life.

The fish used in this recipe is Tilapia, but you can choose any other fish that you prefer and can be found easily where you live. Also there are four different herbs used in this recipe, but if you are living in a country where it is not easy to find them all, just like where I live, you can leave them out and use only dill. If you decide so, then keep in mind that you should increase the amount of dill from 1/4 cup to 1 cup.
There might be various recipes for making this dish, but in this one, thanks to the saffron and lemon juice that is added at the end, the fish tastes incredible and won’t have any unpleasant smell.

Ingredients (Serves 3 people):

• 2 Cups long grain rice (Basmati rice)
• 3 Pieces Tilapia fish fillet, or a fish of your choice
• ¼ Cups chopped dill, fresh or dried
• ¼ Cups chopped chives or scallions
• ¼ Cups chopped parsley
• ¼ Cups chopped coriander (cilantro)
• ½ Cups flour
• 1 Teaspoon turmeric
• black pepper- salt
• 1 Tablespoon fish spice
• ½ Teaspoons ground saffron dissolved into 4 tablespoons hot water
• 3 Tablespoons lemon
• 2 Tablespoons Butter
• vegetable oil


Wash the rice with cool water a few times. Soak in water, add 1 tablespoons salt and set aside for couple of hours. The longer you soak the rice it will be fluffier when cooked.

In a large non-stick pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drain the rice and pour into boiling water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water back to a boil. After 5-7 minutes test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be hard in the center and soft on the outside. Also another way to see if it’s ready to drain is that you will see the rice gains starting to come to the surface of the water. Drain the rice using a colander and rinse with cool water.

Add the chopped herbs to the rice and mix . Be careful to not break the rice grains.
Return the pot and heat 3 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Place the rice and herb mixture in the pot in a pyramid shape. Add butter to the top, make 3 holes in the rice with the bottom of a spoon to release the steam. Lower the heat, cover the lid and steam the rice for 45-50 minutes on low heat.

Meanwhile, mix the flour with turmeric, fish spice, black pepper and 1 tablespoon salt. You can add garlic powder too.
Coat each fillet with this mixture finely and set aside. Click on the image to enlarge.
Heat 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. place fish fillets in the pan and fry both sides until golden and crispy.
Mix the saffron water with lemon juice and add to the fillets.

Reduce heat, cover the lid and let it cook for some more minutes until fillets absorb the saffron and lemon juice.
When the rice is done, using a spatula gently serve the rice onto a platter and place the fish fillets beside it. You can save a bit of saffron water from and mix with some rice for garnish and decoration.  Preferred side dishes for this dish were named in the description.