Monday 15 March 2021

Mahi Polo - Persian fish and rice.

Mahi Polo

The Persian New Year is a much-awaited time of the year. The advent of spring means better weather for most in the Northern Hemisphere and beautiful flowers to smell and admire.

Growing up, Navroze in Karachi meant a set of new clothes, a holiday from school, prayers at the fire temple, and then visits to the family elders. We spent the day indulging in eating sweets (mithai), particularly sutarfeni, which was always freshly made for the event by the stores across from the agiary, our fire temple. We would receive a bit of cash in a parika from grandparents and loving aunts—always with shiny, crisp, new notes straight out of the bank stuffed in a white envelope with bhali duas (good wishes) and always written in red ink, considered sagun nu or auspicious. It was never about the money, but about the excitement of having something to look forward to.

While we ate traditional food for lunch as a family, we generally ate out for dinner. As the years go by, I learn more about Navroze—our ancient traditions, heritage, and culture—that we knew very little about when we were younger. Through my recent interest in researching commonalities between Persian and Parsi food, I found that one of the traditional foods Iranians eat over Navroze is Mahi Polo—rice and fish.

Here I have shared my version of this dish, which was the last dish I prepared for my mother one afternoon on a whim. I enjoyed it very much. I think she did too.

Serves 6


Fish Marinade


1 kg | 2.2 lb fish fillets—Tilapia or any white, firm-fleshed fish
Marinated in 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp saffron, bloomed in 3 tbsp water

2 tbsp lemon juice

Fesh orange juice from one tangy, flavourful orange like a kinoo


1 tbsp grapeseed oil for frying the fish

1 cup rice 

2 tbsp salted browned butter or garlic butter

1 cup fresh dill, chopped

Optionally add other fresh herbs, chives, parsley, mint, green garlic

Garnish with orange slices, sumac and zereshk (barberries)

Boil the rice in salted water. Once cooked, drain in a colander and toss with the butter and dill.

In a deep skillet, heat the oil and fry the fish, turning it once. Pour the juices over it. 

Spread the rice all over the fish. Give the pan a shake to spread the rice evenly. Drizzle the steeped saffron water. Cover tightly to seal. Allow for a 10-minute simmer before turning off the heat. Let it rest for a few minutes and serve.




Cooking your rice in seafood broth or fish stock, adds to the flavour.

Traditionally, whole fish like sea bream or sea bass are used—with skin and bone.

Using brown butter and garlic butter, instead of salted butter enhances the flavour.

Add a squeeze of orange juice and a few orange wedges, just after the fish is cooked, all over it, to further brighten up and garnish the dish.

This dish has no gravy; it always completes the dish when served with raita, or the Persian version of the same, made with yoghurt, cucumber, walnut, raisin, red onion, and sumac.


Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.

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