Reshteh polow

Reshteh polow

Noodle rice with mandarin zest and currants

Mark Roper

Noodle rice appeals very much to my Lebanese heart, as it’s a popular combination in Middle Eastern cooking. This is a really pretty polow, with bright threads of orange mandarin and golden noodles. The word ‘reshteh’ actually means ‘threads’ in Farsi, and noodles are used in several Persian rice and soup dishes to symbolise the tangled threads of life. This dish is often served on occasions when a decision is required, or at times of a new start in life, such as New Year. The threads – or reins – of life can literally be taken in hand, and a new way forward determined.


Quantity Ingredient
75g currants
2 mandarins or oranges, zested, cut into julienne strips
125ml olive oil
100g vermicelli noodles, broken into 2 cm lengths
300g basmati rice
2 tablespoons sea salt
70ml vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
40g unsalted butter, melted
6 fresh dates, pitted and cut in half
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 tablespoons Saffron liquid


  1. Soak the currants in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Blanch the mandarin zest in the boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and repeat twice more to remove any bitterness.
  3. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the noodles and shallow-fry for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Wash the rice thoroughly, then leave it to soak in a generous amount of lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Swish it around with your fingers every now and then to loosen the starch.
  5. Strain the rice, rinsing it again with warm water. Bring 2 litres water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and stir in the strained rice. Return the water to a rolling boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Test the rice by pinching a grain between your fingers or by biting it. It should be soft on the outside, but still hard in the centre. Strain the rice and rinse again with warm water. Toss it several times to drain away as much of the water as you can.
  6. Return the rice saucepan to a medium heat and add the vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons water. As soon as the oil begins to sizzle, spoon in enough rice to cover the base of the pan in a thin layer. Gently toss the remaining rice with the mandarin zest, fried noodles, currants and spices and spoon it into the pan, building it up into a pyramid. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke 5 or 6 holes down through the rice to the base of the pan to help it steam. Mix 2 tablespoons warm water with the melted butter and saffron liquid and drizzle this over the rice. Scatter the dates over the rice, then sit the cinnamon sticks on top. Wrap the saucepan lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pan as tightly as you can.
  7. Leave the pan on a medium–high heat for a 2–3 minutes until the mixture is visibly steaming – you will see puffs of steam escaping from the edges of the pan. Turn the heat down to low and leave the pan alone for 40 minutes. Resist the temptation to peek, as this releases the steam and affects the cooking time. This can actually sit quite happily over the lowest possible heat for another 20 minutes or so.
  8. When ready to serve, sit the saucepan in a little cold water in the sink; the sudden change in temperature creates a surge of steam that ‘shocks’ the rice and makes it shrink from the sides, which loosens the crusty bottom.
  9. To serve, invert the pan onto a warm serving platter so that the polow plops out as one glorious, golden-capped mound. Otherwise, spoon the rice into a warm serving dish and when you reach the crispy base, lift it out and drape it over the rice. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if the tah-deeg breaks. Alternatively, present it on a separate plate.
  10. Remove the cinnamon sticks before serving the rice garnished with the dates.
Middle Eastern
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