Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh stands as a cherished dish within Persian cuisine, embodying the essence of Persian flavors. It combines fragrant rice, tangy barberries, aromatic saffron, and succulent chicken to create a delightful culinary experience, adored by Iranians far and wide.
What Exactly is Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh?
Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh, literally translated as “Barberry rice with chicken,” is a Persian culinary masterpiece. In Farsi, “Polo” refers to rice combined with various ingredients, while “Zereshk” signifies the inclusion of barberries. This tantalizing blend of flavors results in the creation of “Zereshk Polo.” Other well-known Persian rice dishes include:
- Sabzi Polo – Aromatic herb rice
- Estamboli Polo – Tomato-infused rice
- Adas Polo – Rice with lentils
- Loobia Polo – Green bean rice
- Baghali Polo – Dill rice with broad beans
Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh takes center stage at Persian gatherings, from intimate birthday celebrations to grand weddings and solemn memorial services. It is also a popular choice for donating and distributing as Nazri during religious occasions like Ashura. The process of preparing Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh is straightforward and uncomplicated.
Zereshk Polo – Persian Barberry Rice
Which Ingredients Are Required for Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh?
To create Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh, you will need the following ingredients:
1. Rice: Opt for high-quality, long-grain basmati rice, properly washed and soaked before cooking. For detailed instructions on making Persian rice, refer to our comprehensive guide.
2. Barberry (Zereshk): These tiny, vibrant red jewels play a crucial role in Iranian cuisine. They infuse the dish with a burst of tartness and a visually appealing color.
3. Slivered Pistachios: These beautiful green nuts impart a distinct nutty flavor and are used in both sweet and savory Middle Eastern dishes. Soaking them in water or rosewater beforehand enhances their texture, flavor, and color contrast in the dish.
4. Saffron: Renowned as the world’s most expensive spice by weight, saffron adds a rich golden hue and a sweet aroma to Persian cuisine, especially Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh.
5. Chicken (Morgh): Chicken, in any preferred cuts, plays a vital role in the traditional preparation of Zereshk Polo. However, vegans, vegetarians, or those not fond of chicken, lamb, or beef can be substituted or omitted altogether.
6. Tomato Paste: Obtained by boiling tomatoes for several hours to reduce their moisture content, this concentrated paste is a staple of Persian cuisine. Typically, the chicken in Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh is cooked in a sauce, often tomato-based. If you prefer to avoid tomato sauce, you can replace it with bloomed saffron.
Everything You Need to Know About Barberries (Zereshk)
Barberries, small tangy berries, are widely utilized in Iranian cuisine. They are derived from a large shrub native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Various barberry varieties exist across different regions. These berries have been used in traditional medicine for their potential to balance blood pressure and blood sugar levels. They are also rich in vitamin C and offer benefits to the kidneys and heart. Additionally, barberries are a potent source of antioxidants.
In Iranian culinary traditions, black barberries are a key component of a stew called “Khoresht-E Khalal Badam” (Persian Almond stew) from the Kermanshah province. These striking red berries not only feature prominently in dishes like Tahchin (Persian saffron and rice cake) but are also enjoyed as a popular Persian beverage called Ab Zereshk (Barberry juice), owing to their tangy taste and health benefits.
Barberries are a significant agricultural export from Iran and make for an excellent choice as a Persian souvenir.
Where Can You Find Barberries?
Khorasan province is responsible for over 90% of barberry production in Iran. However, given their importance in Persian cuisine, barberries can be readily found in supermarkets throughout Iran.
If you are seeking barberries outside of Iran, Persian, and Middle Eastern stores, as well as whole food stores, are likely to stock them.
How to Utilize Barberries?
Barberries are typically sold in a dried form. To prepare them for use in cooking, wash and soak the barberries in cool water until they become hydrated. Adding a small amount of sugar while sautéing them in butter can help balance their tangy flavor.
How to Prepare Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh?
- Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the sliced onion until translucent.
- Add the chicken to the pan and sear it on all sides until golden brown.
- Introduce turmeric and tomato paste, sauté until the mixture turns dark red, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add carrots and water to the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for approximately 40 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
- Thoroughly wash and soak the rice in cool water, adding 4 tablespoons of salt. soak for at least 1 hour.
- In a large non-stick pot, bring 8 cups of water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Drain the rice and add it to the water. Let it return to a boil for about 7 minutes. Test the rice to ensure it is ready; the grains should be firm in the center and soft on the outside.
- Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water 3-4 times.
- Wash the rice pot with water, then add oil or butter to the bottom. Place flatbread such as Lavash or pita on the bottom of the pot. Use a large spatula, to move the parboiled rice onto the bread, shaping a pyramid shape away from the pot’s side. To allow steam to escape, create 4-5 holes in the rice using the spatula’s bottom.
- Cook the rice on medium heat for 7-10 minutes until it begins to steam. Pour 1/4 cup of water over the rice, cover the pot, reduce the heat, and steam the rice for approximately 40-45 minutes.
- Wash and rinse the barberries several times, then soak them in cool water for 15 minutes before draining. This helps prevent them from burning quickly.
- Soak the slivered pistachios in rosewater.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Add the barberries and sauté them over medium-low heat for 2 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons of liquid saffron, rosewater-soaked pistachios, and sugar to balance the taste of the barberry. Mix everything well, being careful not to fry the barberry for more than 30 seconds so that it does not burn. Remove the mixture from the heat and set it aside.
Serving Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh
To serve, scoop a small amount of rice over the top and toss with a mixture of blooming saffron, barberry, and pistachio. Gently fluff the rice and plate it on a large platter. Layer the saffron-barberry rice mixture on top. Finally, gently remove the tahdig (bottom bread crust) and serve it on a separate plate.
Enjoy the delectable flavors of Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh, a remarkable Persian dish that beautifully blends the elements of barberries, rice, and chicken into a culinary masterpiece.