Zereshk Polo, Persian Sunshine Rice with Chicken
Zereshk Polo is the ultimate choice for those who just want to make something delicious and simple yet classy. A plate of Zereshk Polo is like a painting with the perfect harmony of colors and delightful textures. Each ingredient is bold and precise individually, but they come together to create a masterpiece that surprises you. The golden saffron rice with bright red dried barberries on top goes to one side of the dish. On the other side, the crispy, tender chicken shines with a fantastic sauce and melts your heart. This picturesque image is not something you would forget. Every time that you eat Zereshk Polo, you wonder what a genius mind thought about cooking something this much extraordinary.
“Zereshk Polo ba Morgh” which translates to “dried barberries and rice with chicken,” is perfect for family gatherings, a cozy lunch or dinner with someone special, or just something to cheer you up. Talking from experience, children love this food, so you can add it to their diets and let them enjoy it. This makes your job easier, too, since its cooking time is short enough.
The wonderful news is that vegetarians and vegans can enjoy Zereshk Polo as well.
What Do You Need to Make Zereshk Polo?
Rice: One of the significant parts of Persian cuisine is rice. Iranians can be very picky about the type of rice that they choose for cooking. Usually, the perfect rice for Iranians belongs to the north of Iran and has a wonderful taste and fragrance. However, you can always use Basmati rice, which is close to Persian rice, and gives you the result that you are looking for.
According to Medical News Today, Basmati rice is full of amylose, and that is why the seeds do not stick together while cooking. The type of fiber in rice reduces the risk of colon cancer and keeps the guts healthy.
Chicken: The most common protein source is chicken, which is low in calories and helps the body build muscles. Therefore, athletes can have chicken in their diet without worrying about gaining weight, since chicken is a good source of vitamin B6, which promotes heart health as well.
The most popular parts of the chicken for Zereshk Polo are chicken breast, or drumstick, and thigh. However, you are free to try any other part that you enjoy the most. Also, for a more animal-friendly option, you can go with tofu or halloumi cheese instead of chicken.
Saffron: The most expensive and one of the most delicious spices is saffron. Farmers harvest saffron by hands, which makes it even more precious. This magical powder makes sure that your food becomes perfect in both appearance and taste.
One of the essential benefits of saffron is acting as a strong antioxidant. It reduces your stress and makes you happy by producing dopamine. Also, saffron can control your appetite and prevent your desire to eat snacks during the day, which leads to weight loss.
You can use saffron in different ways, such as brewing it, using it as powder, or simply the stigma itself. However, brewing it will extract the color and aroma better.
Dried Barberries: These small sour fruits give character to Zereshk Polo and make it spectacular and unique. In the past, people used barberries, or as Iranians call it Zereshk, for defeating infections and skin problems, then they realized there is more use in these beautiful fruits.
Using barberries can help fighting diabetes and blood pressure. Also, the studies show that it can help with inflammatory dental diseases. Besides, barberries are incredibly delicious, so there is no reason for not adding them to your diet.
How to Make Zereshk Polo?
Making Zereshk Polo is simple and fun, but each chef has her/his own trick to make it special. The most important thing is to try making it and let your creative mind experiment with different methods to find the perfect one for you.
The Recipe of Zereshk Polo
Step One: First of all, you need to cook the rice that you have soaked before. Two different methods of cooking rice are equally good for Zereshk Polo. Therefore, you can either put the oil and rice into the pot and add 4 cups of water. When the water is boiling, and you can see most of it is evaporated, you can put the lid on and lower the heat. After about 45 minutes, the rice is ready.
The draining method is more useful for ceremonies and gatherings. It might be a little bit more complicated and less nutritious, but the rice will look better. In this way, you need to boil the rice for 7 to 10 minutes until you see small lines on the seeds and realize that they look transparent. Also, when the seeds are coming on the surface of the water, the rice is ready for draining. Then, put the pot back on the heat, add the rice and oil then let it cook for 40 minutes.
Step Two: In this step, you need to prepare the chicken. First, put a pot on heat, add the chicken, cinnamon stick, bell pepper, onion, carrot, 2 cups of water and some salt to it. Let it cook for almost 20 minutes. Keep in mind that you should not overcook the chicken to lose its shape when you want to fry them. After that, you need a pan to put some oil in it. While waiting for the oil to get hot, place the chickens inside a colander to get dry, and then put them inside the pan and fry. When both sides of the chickens look perfectly golden, add the orange juice or tomato paste and saffron to it and let them evaporate and leave their color and aroma.
Step Three: Now, you need to prepare the dry barberries by putting them in a pot with oil (you can use butter instead of oil too), and a teaspoon of sugar and salt to moderate the sourness. You have to stir it a lot and keep the heat low because dried barberries burn easily and get bitter.
Step Four: This is the moment that we were waiting for. Put nine tablespoons of rice into a bowl, add saffron to it and stir it to have a gorgeous yellow color. Then design your rice with this saffrony rice and barberries. You can put some sliced pistachio on the rice as well to make it even more beautiful. The last touch of Zereshk Polo would be putting the chicken next to the rice and enjoy the masterpiece that you have created.
How to Make Vegetarian or Vegan Zereshk Polo?
Cooking the rice is exactly based on the mentioned recipe. However, instead of the chicken, you can marinate halloumi cheese or tofu with saffron, bell pepper, and a little bit of orange or lime juice. Then you need to fry them in oil and place them on the plate beside the saffrony rice and barberries. Enjoy!