By Chef Sophia Parsa

January 2021

4 Servings

Shirin means sweet — in Middle Eastern culture, when something sweet is happening, you eat sweets — so shirin polo usually marks special occasions. It’s something you eat for a wedding, the high holidays, or Rosh Hashanah in the jewish community. Growing up, it wasn’t something we ate often — when you saw shirin polo, you knew it was an occasion.


  • 1⁄2 cup thinly sliced orange and tangerine zest (1 medium orange and
    2 tangerines)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2.5 oz carrots
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter (for caramelizing the carrots)
  • 1⁄4 cup barberries (toast with butter or oil and a pinch of sugar)
  • 1⁄4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • Saffron powder (optional)


  • Zest an entire orange without peeling it. Peel the tangerine and get rid of as much of the white part. Cut the zested ingredients into thin strips.
  • Place the zest strips in a small pot, cover with cold water, boil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes without covering.
  • Strain water and repeat the previous step one more time with fresh water, boil for another 5-7 minutes, strain and set aside.
  • Bring 1 cup water and 1⁄2 cup sugar to a boil over medium heat in the same pot. Add the zest strips to the hot syrup and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir a few times and let it slowly boil uncovered until the syrup reduces and the zest strips are sweet. Transfer the candied zest strips to a plate and spread to cool. Reserve the syrup in the pot.
  • In a large skillet, saut the thin carrot sticks and 2 tbsp butter. Stir frequently and saute over medium heat for a few minutes then add a pinch of kosher salt and continue to saute over medium heat or higher until light golden brown. The reason for higher temperature and stirring is to brown the carrots quickly without softening. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
  • Toast the barberries with butter, a pinch of sugar, and then combine with
    Add dry rice into a large bowl and add cold water. Rinse and drain water
    several times until the water is clear.
  • Fill a 3-quart nonstick pot up to 2 inches from the top with water. Allow room for the rice that you will be adding. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water comes to a boil add the 1⁄4 cup salt and strain the rice. Add water again, bring to a boil, and stir to break any rice from sticking to each other.
  • Continue to boil over medium-high heat. Watch the rice carefully, the water tends to foam up and spillover. You can use a large spoon to remove the foam. If you bring down your heat, be sure it’s high enough to continuously boil. Check one grain by pinching it in 7-10 minutes. When your rice is al dente, you’re ready for the next step. Empty the rice into a strainer, rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process and to wash off the excess salt. Set aside some plain rice for the bottom of your pot to make tahdig. Mix remaining rice with carrot, barberries, and zest mixture.
  • Stir the saffron and 3 tbsp of hot water together in a small cup. Place the
    3-quart nonstick pot over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and 1⁄4 cup of the saffron water. Completely coat the bottom and sides of the pot. When the oil begins to sizzle, add enough plain rice to coat the bottom of the pot evenly. Press down gently, but firmly to compact the rice and press about 2 inches up the sides to form a crust.
  • Spoon the remaining carrot and zest mixture rice over the top, forming a small mound in the center. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make 5 deep holes to vent steam down into the rice. Cover the pot with the lid and cook for about 10 minutes, you will see steam coming from underneath the lid. Remove the lid from the pot, being careful not to drip condensation back into the pot. Turn the heat to low. Wrap the lid with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel, securing at the top to keep loose ends away from the fire. Drizzle the saffron vegetable oil mixture into the rice. Cover with the lid and continue to cook, rotating the pot every so often for even browning, until the crust is deeply golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the lid.
  • 1 minute before the rice is ready, drizzle half of the reserved citrus syrup over the rice.
  • To serve, flip the pot over a serving platter or large plate and garnish with carrots and barberries. Traditionally served with chicken or lamb.
  • Enjoy!