Polo Rubiyun – Shrimp with Rice

Although a good portion of Iran borders the Persian Gulf, and another segment opens onto the Caspian Sea in the north, I hadn’t seen many recipes involving seafood in the cookbooks I was reading.  So when I started browsing through a new cookbook from that library that includes more regional favorites, I was excited to see a couple of shrimp recipes from the Iranian province of Khuzestan.

There are 30 provinces in Iran, and Khuzestan is located on the north edge of the Persian Gulf, right next to Kuwait and Iraq. The province is populated by people from both Persian and Arab descent, and according to Wikipedia, also a wide variety of other ethnicities and cultures. Seafood is a popular ingredient in the Khuzestani cuisine.

Polo Rubiyun is a polow-style rice dish with shrimp, tamarind and parsley. I followed the more complex of the 2 recipes which also included walnuts and dried barberries (zereshk), a small tart red berry that looks and tastes pretty much like a small cranberry (see photo below).

The shrimp is sauteed with onion and garlic, and then spices, berries and walnuts are added. This mixture is combined with cooked rice, and placed in a lidded non-stick pan to cook very slowly. I described this polow-making process in more detail in a previous post.  The tah dig crusty layer unfortunately didn’t form for me, but this is my first time on my own – I’ll try again!  I think that was due to a combination of reasons, including the fact that I had to use a mixture of basmati and other shorter grain rice, and the type of pan that I have. The dish turned out very tasty anyway, though with both the tamarind and the barberries it was a little on the tart side for my palate. When making this again, I would probably just use the tamarind and not the barberries, though they do make it look festive.

Polo Rubiyun (rice with shrimp)
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili pepper, or half if it’s a hot one, minced
1/2 lb. shrimp
1/2 c. zereshk (barberries)
1 c. parsley, chopped
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. tamarind pulp, dissolved in water and seeds removed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground fenugreek
1 1/2 c. basmati rice
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Saute the onion, chili pepper, and garlic on medium-high heat in olive oil until translucent. Add shrimp and stir-fry for a few minutes until they turn pink. Mix in zereshk through fenugreek, stir well and then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil and add rice to boil for 10 minutes, or until just al dente (almost finished). Drain rice in a colander and rinse briefly. Drain well.

Mix rice with shrimp mixture and stir to combine. Pour enough melted butter in the bottom of a non-stick pot, and fill with the rice and shrimp mixture. Pour the remaining butter over the top, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes on low heat.  Serve warm.

Adapted from: Persian Cuisine, by M. R. Ghanoonparvar

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