Serves 4-5
Recipe type: Persian Rice
Cuisine: Persian
  • 1 cup thinly sliced orange and tangerine zest (1 medium orange and 2 tangerines)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • One medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 TBSP butter, for caramelizing the onions
  • 5 ounces match stick carrots (these are thin carrot sticks sold in small bags near the whole carrots in the produce department). If unable to find, thinly slice the peeled carrots then cut them julienne style)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP butter, for caramelizing the carrots
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pistachios (unsalted preferred)
  • ⅓ cup slivered almonds (homemade or store bought)
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • 3 cups uncooked basmati rice (please refer to this link for rice and tahdig instructions)
  • Saffron powder (optional), to sprinkle between layers of rice before steaming
  1. Without peeling the orange, use a sharp paring knife or a vegetable peeler to peel the outer zest (not the white pith). Peel the tangerine first and try to get rid of as much of the white pith on the inside. Cut all the zest to very thin strips with scissors or a knife.
  2. Place the zest strips in a 1-Qt saucepan, cover with cold water and without covering the saucepan, boil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Pour out the water and repeat this step one more time with fresh water, boil for another 5-7 minutes, drain and set aside.
  3. In the same saucepan bring 1 cup water and ½ cup sugar to a boil over medium heat. Add the zest strips to the hot syrup. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir a few times and let it slowly boil uncovered until the syrup reduces to about ¼ the initial volume and the zest strips are almost transparent and sweet.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the candied zest strips to a plate and spread them in a thin layer to cool. Reserve the syrup (there will be 2-3 tablespoons of syrup in the saucepan)
  5. In a large skillet gently saute the onions with 3 tablespoons butter over medium low heat until golden brown. Stir occasionally until the onions are caramelized and crisp.
  6. Remove the onions from the skillet and set them aside. Add the thin carrot sticks to the same skillet with another 2 tablespoons butter. Stir frequently and saute over medium heat for couple of minutes and when they start sweating add a pinch of kosher salt and continue to saute over medium heat or a little higher until light golden brown. The reason for higher temperature and stirring is to brown the carrots quickly so they don’t poach and get soft instead of browning. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
  7. Make the rice and your choice of TahDig (I’ve made yogurt and saffron TahDig) according to the instructions here. I have sprinkled saffron powder over 2-3 layers of rice before steaming it. As usual the rice will take about an hour to steam.
  8. About 15 minutes before the rice is ready, place the skillet with caramelized carrots back over low heat. Drizzle half of the reserved citrus syrup over the carrots and toss to coat. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Push the carrots to one corner and without mixing, pile chopped pistachios, slivered almonds and raisins in the corners of the skillet. Drizzle the rest of the citrus syrup over each pile and toss a few times. Keep the skillet over low heat for 3-5 minutes. This toasts the the nuts and raisins with the syrup and butter in the skillet to give them some added crunch and a glistening look.
  10. To serve, add ⅓ of the rice to the serving platter, sprinkle with ⅓ each of caramelized onions, carrots and raisins. Repeat this 2 more times forming a pyramid, until all the rice, onions, carrots and raisins are finished.
  11. Sprinkle the rice pyramid with pistachios and almonds. Then add the candied citrus zest on the peak.
  12. Serve the Shirin Polo by itself or with chicken or beef.
To make Saffron powder: Add whole saffron strands to the grinding chamber of a small electric coffee grinder and process until you have a soft powder. This technique allows you to use the entire strands without any waste.
Recipe by Persian Mama at