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Rice with Toasted Noodles and Dates with Bread Crust (Reshteh polow)


  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned leg of lamb, or chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon advieh (Persian spice mix)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons rose water
  • 2 cups long-grain basmati rice
  • 1/2 pound toasted Persian noodles (reshteh), cut into 3 inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup oil, butter or ghee
  • 2 onions and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pitted raisins or currants
  • 1/4 cup orange zest (about 6 oranges)
  • 1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons orange-blossom water
  • 2 teaspoons advieh (Persian spice mix)
  • Lavash bread to fit the bottom of pot


  • 1. To cook the lamb: Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium-sized pot, and brown the onion and lamb. Season with salt, pepper, turmeric, advieh, and lime juice. Pour in 1 1 /2 cups water. Cover and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes over medium heat until the lamb is almost tender. Add the saffron-rose water, cover, and set aside.
  • 2. For the rice: Clean and wash 2 cups rice 5 times in warm water. It is then desirable but not essential to soak the rice in 8 cups water with 2 tablespoons salt for at least 2 hours.
  • 3. Bring 10 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the rice into the pot. Add the noodles. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice with a wooden spoon to loosen the grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains of the rice. If it feels soft and all of it has risen to the surface, it is ready. Drain the rice and noodles in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse with 2 to 3 cups water.
  • 4. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a wide skillet over medium heat and brown the onions. Add the dates, raisins, orange zest, a few drops of the saffron-orange blossom water, and advieh, and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Set aside.
  • 5. To make the bread crust (tah-tig-e nun) In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup water, and a drop of the saffron-orange blossom water. Spread the mixture in the pot. Place a layer of lavash bread on top to fit the bottom of the pot.
  • 6. Place 2 spatulas full of the rice noodle mixture in the pot. Add a spatula of the raisin, orange zest, and dates mixture. Add a spatula of the meat mixture. Repeat this process, arranging the layers in the shape of a pyramid.
  • 7. Cover and cook rice and noodle mixture for 10 minutes over medium heat. Mix the remaining oil, 1/4 cup water, and saffron-orange blossom water, and pour over the rice and noodle pyramid. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean dish towel and cover firmly to prevent the steam from escaping. Cook for 50 minutes over low heat.
  • 8. Remove rice and noodle from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes on a damp surface without uncovering. This helps free the crust from the bottom of the pot.
  • 9. There are two ways to unmold and serve the rice. The first is to hold the serving platter tightly over the uncovered pot and invert the two together, unmolding the rice onto the platter. The rice will emerge as a golden-crusted cake. Serve in wedges.
  • 10. The second way is to take 2 tablespoons of the saffron rice from the top and set aside Gently taking one spatula full of rice at a time, place it on a serving platter without disturbing the crust. Mound the rice into a cone. Garnish with the saffron rice on top. Detach the layer of crust from the bottom using a wooden spatula. Place the pieces of crust into a small platter and serve on the side.
  • Vegetarian Variation: Eliminate all the ingredients for the meat and skip step 1. In step 10 garnish the rice with 1/2 cup toasted almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup pine nuts, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
  • Variations: Cook toasted Persian noodles (reshteh) for 10 to 15 minutes in 3 cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until tender. Drain and set aside. Make your rice as directed without adding the noodles. Before serving, place a spatula of rice on a serving platter, then alternate with layers of noodle, and the raisin and dates mixture.
  • Note: If you cannot find toasted noodles, in a wide skillet over medium heat, toast the noodles for a few minutes until golden.