Shirin Polo (Sweet Rice)

From Saffron & Rose Water


Photo by Shannon Kelli


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Shirin Polo (Sweet Rice)

  • Author: Recipe by Sima Dehestani | Photo by Shannon Kelly
  • Yield: Serves 4


Sima Dehestani has a fondness for this festive rice dish, a colorful mélange that features carrots, pistachios, almonds, candied orange peel, currants, and barberries. It’s traditional at weddings, but customers at Syma’s insist that Dehestani keep it on the daily menu.

Note: This recipe includes a method for making candied orange peel strips, but stores with a large selection of baking supplies (like Market Hall and Berkeley Bowl) may have a similar ready-made preparation. These will be sweeter than you will get following the method here, but the amount of sweetness is a matter of taste.


Units Scale
  • Peel from 1 orange (or 1/4 cup candied orange peel strips)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 ounces slivered, blanched almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups (8 ounces) basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 2/3 cups water
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon saffron water (see note below)
  • 1 1/2 ounces raw pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 ounces currants
  • 1 1/2 ounces dried barberries


To prepare the candied orange peel: Slice peel into thin strips and remove as much of the bitter white pith as you can. Boil the strips in a small pot of water for 10 minutes to remove bitterness. (You can drain and boil in several more changes of water if you are concerned about bitterness.) Drain and boil the peels one last time in a small amount of water with 2 tablespoons sugar. When the water is almost gone, turn the peels out onto a towel to cool.

To toast the slivered almonds: Spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 200°F oven for about an hour or until lightly browned. (If you are in a hurry, you can toast them in a hotter oven, but watch carefully so they do not burn.)

To cook the rice: Place rice and water in a saucepan and simmer (uncovered) over medium-high heat until bubbly and foamy. Place a lid on the pan, turn heat to medium low, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the grated carrots: Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the grated carrots. Cook for 5 minutes until the oil has turned orange. Remove from heat. Drain the oil off the carrots (reserve for another use) and set the drained carrots aside.

To assemble: Place rice in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon saffron water. Add cooked carrots, pistachios, toasted almonds, currants, barberries, and prepared orange peel strips. Toss to combine and serve.

When Dehestani is setting food out on a celebration table, she spreads a layer of cooked plain white rice on a large serving tray and then arranges this colorful mixture in a design on top.


Saffron Water

Saffron is an important flavor in many Persian recipes, which is why Sima Dehestani always has a cruet filled with saffron water at the ready in her kitchen. To make it, grind 1 tablespoon saffron threads and mix with ½ cup hot water in jar or cruet.

  • Category: Grain entree