Sabzi Polo Mahi in Honor of Persian New Year

Sabzi Polo Mahi in Honor of Persian New Year



Sabzi polo (Persian: سبزی پلو‎‎) is an Iranian (Persian) dish of rice and chopped herbs, usually served with fish. In Persian, sabz means green, and sabzi can refer to herbs or vegetables. Polo is a style of cooked rice, known in English as pilaf.

The herbs used in sabzi polo vary, but typically include coriander, dill, chives or scallions,fenugreek, and parsley. It can be done from both, fresh and dried herbs.

Iranians traditionally eat sabzi polo with “white fish” for lunch on Nowruz, the Iranian new year, with their family and relatives.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For herbed rice:

  •  2 cups basmati rice
  •  1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 cups dill, finely chopped
  • 1 cup green onions (green stems), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of saffron threads
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

For fish:

  • 1 whole branzino or other white fish, butterflied
  • 1 clove garlic, slivered
  • 1 teaspoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil


  1. Add the finely chopped parsley, cilantro, dill and green onions to a bowl and mix together. I used a knife to chop the herbs but you can also use a food processor; rinse and dry the herbs, pulse each one individually, and then combine.
  2. In a large bowl, rinse the rice in 3 or 4 changes of cold water until the water runs clear. Add enough water to cover the rice along with 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir and let soak for 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Bring 10 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Drain the rice and add it to the hot water. Boil uncovered for 7 minutes over a medium heat.
  4. Pour the water and rice from the large pot into a strainer to drain the water. Rinse the rice with cold water and set aside. The rice should be a little undercooked.
  5. Rinse and dry the large pot the rice was being boiled in, and place it back on the stove on medium heat. Add the 2 tbsp of canola oil, 1/2 of the cumin seeds and spread both on the bottom of the pan with a ladle.
  6. Gently spoon 1/3 of the rice into the pot in one even layer.
  7. Next, spoon 1/2 of the herbs in a thin even layer over the rice followed by another layer of rice. Repeat until both rice and herbs have been used up, ending with a layer of rice. Sprinkle the rest of the cumin seeds on the last layer of rice.
  8. Pour 1/2 cup of water around the edges of the rice in the pot.
  9. Add saffron to 3 tbsp of hot water in a small bowl and soak for 5 minutes. Pour the saffron water on the top of the rice.
  10. Cover with aluminum foil and a tight lid to lock in the steam. Cook for 30 minutes on a low heat.
  11. Meanwhile, rinse and pat dry the fish. Lay it on a flat surface and brush a little oil on onside. Sprinkle salt, pepper and 1/2 of the rice flour. Flip the fish and repeat on the other side.
  12. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wide saute or cast iron pan. Cook the fish, skin side down, for 4 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle slivers of garlic, finely chopped parsley and salt on the fish and cook until the fish is cooked through. Approximately another 4 minutes. Transfer the cooked fish to a platter.
  14. Once the rice is cooked, using a ladle, gently stir the rice and transfer it to a serving dish or a plate. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve with the fried fish.