Meigoo Polo | (Persian) Shrimp & Raisin Saffron Rice
Hi everyone! Before delving into our recipe post, I have to share the news that I cooked fesenjan for The New York Times as featured in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine cover story of “Diverse Holiday Feasts From Five New York Families.” It was a fun and exciting adventure and I’m going to write all about it in a future post. Meanwhile, to new readers finding your way from that article: Welcome!
Meigoo polo (shrimp rice) — a unique Persian rice dish made with shrimp, raisins, walnuts and caramelized onions — is a delicious example showcasing the fond emphasize on seafood in the culinary traditions of the southern provinces of Iran.
My parents first had meigoo polo at the home of my aunt – a vivacious Kermanshahi beauty who married a doting Shirazi gentleman, moved to Shiraz, and seamlessly adopted the accent and all the ways & wiles of that fabled region to praised perfection. My mom got the recipe from my aunt and this unusual and unusually tasty mixed rice thereafter became a standard albeit special treat at our family dinner table.
While meigoo polo looks suitably impressive and is a knockout when it comes to taste and culinary pleasure, it is actually a relatively easy dish to prepare if (and I know that’s a big “if”) you’ve already mastered making the Persian steamed white rice because all you’ll need to do is to either top or layer the rice (when serving) with the mixture of sauteed shrimp, walnuts, raisins and caramelized onions and give it a good dousing of butter. Amen, hallejlujah! Yum! (If you need an intro for making Persian steamed rice, check out the detailed posts in the Persian Rice 101: How to Make the Perfect Persian Rice pictorial guide series.)
Now let’s not spend senseless time chit chatting when we could be making and digging into this tasty dish instead!
Meigoo polo | (Persian) Shrimp & Raisin Saffron Rice
- 1 pound cooked & peeled shrimp (or prawns)
- 2 1/2 cups long grain rice (best quality rice you can find)
- 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
- 1/3 cup salt
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup black seedless raisins
- a few pinches of ground saffron
- a couple pinches of cinnamon
- a pinch of cumin, a pinch of coriander powder and a hint of cardamom powder mixed together (advieh)
- salt & pepper
- cooking oil
- Rinse rice with cold water a few times until the water runs clear. Soak rice in lightly salted lukewarm water for 1-2 hours. Drain and set aside. (Detailed instructions: Persian Rice 101: preparing, washing & soaking Persian rice.)
- In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water and 1/3 cup salt to a boil. Add rice and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, till the grains have lengthened and softened enough so that when you test-bite a grain it is no longer crunchy. (Skim foam as necessary, using a spatula.) Drain rice in a colander. Fill pot with a few cups of tepid water and douse over the rice in the colander. (This step helps to de-starch the rice.) Leave to drain.
- Rinse the pot you used to boil the rice. Layer the pot with 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup oil (plus an optional generous dab of butter.) Then, pour the rice from the colander into the pot. Using a spatula, taper rice to form the shape of a pyramid. With the end of a wooden spoon make a few holes in the rice pyramid. (Optional: sprinkle with a pinch of ground saffron.) Cover (ideally you should wrap the lid in a towel) and cook over medium heat until detecting steam – usually around 15-20 minutes. Lower heat and continue to cook for another 40-45 minutes on low heat – until done. (Detailed instructions: Persian Rice 101 – How to Make the Perfect Persian Rice.)
- While waiting for the rice to cook: Heat 4 tablespoons of oil till sizzling hot, add onions, lower heat to medium high, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and allow to soften and golden for approximately 8-10 minutes. Set aside. (Note: Stir very infrequently and only when needed to prevent onion from burning, because over-stirring makes the onion release liquid.)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil till hot, add walnuts, sautee on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. In the final minute, add raisins, sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of saffron. sautee for one minute along with the walnuts. Set aside.
- In a skillet, heat butter till sizzling hot, add shrimp, sprinkle with a pinch of ground saffron, and sautee for 3-5 minutes. When done, season with salt and pepper to taste. Also add a pinch of cumin, corriander and a hint of cardamom powder. Stir to mix seasoning. (You should ideally complete this step just before rice is ready to be plated and served.)
Plate the plain rice into a serving platter and form into the shape of a mound. Top rice with the caramelized onions, then the mixed walnuts and raisins, then the shrimp and finally douse rice with the butter left over from sauteeing the shrimp. (Alternative serving style: layer rice when plating with the mixture instead of using it as a topping.)
Eat it, enjoy it, and noosh ‘e joon!