Celebrating Persian New Year with herbed rice and fish

For this week's D is for Dinner, Alan Neal talks to Ensieh Namazikhah of Shaliz Catering about her recipe for herbed rice and fish, a traditional dish to celebrate the Persian New Year.

D is for Dinner on CBC Radio's All in a Day talks with Ensieh Namazikhah of Shaliz Catering

The Sabzi Polo va Mahi is a traditional Persian dish served at their New Year, which comes at the beginning of spring. (Photo courtesy of Ensieh Namazikhah)

This week on D is for Dinner, Ensieh Namazikhah, who owns Shaliz Catering, shares her recipe for the Persian New Year (Nowruz) on CBC Radio's All in a Day.

The celebration happens every year to signify the beginning of spring. One of the traditional dishes is herbed rice and fish, or Sabzi Polo va Mahi.

Namazikhah says the dish is supposed to bring luck because the herbs in the rice represent rebirth and the fish represents life.

Like all Persian dishes, everyone has his or her own version of the recipe where fluffy rice is perfumed with fragrant herbs and spices and delicious crispy golden fish. Here’s Namazikhah's recipe!

Sabzi Polo va Mahi (Herbed rice and fish, serves 6)


  • 3 cups basmati rice.
  • 1 cup dill, chopped.
  • 1 cup chives (or you can use the green part of green onions or leek), chopped.
  • 1 1/2  cup cilantro, chopped.
  • 1 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped.
  • 4 tsp chopped garlic.
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • 4 tbsp butter.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • Canola oil.
  • Fried fish (see Mahi instructions at bottom).


  • Wash the rice until the water is clear.
  • After the rice is washed, cover with eight cups of warm water and 1 1/2 tbsp. salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes. The longer it soaks the more flavourful and fluffy the rice will be.
  • Fill a large non-stick pot 3/4 full with water with 1 tbsp. salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaking rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for seven minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the dill, chives, cilantro and parsley to the water and simmer for about two minutes and then drain in a strainer.
  • Clean out and dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil in your pot to just cover the bottom.
  • Using a spatula, add a layer of rice to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with a little garlic and cinnamon. 
  • Add the rice in layers forming a sort of pyramid (about four layers total). In between each layer, sprinkle some of the garlic and cinnamon. You can also add an extra dash of ground saffron on the top if you desire. Pour 1/3 cup water over the top of the rice and the butter.
  • Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke three holes in the rice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat to medium-low and take a clean dish towel (or a double layer of paper towel) and cover the lid of the pot. Let the rice steam for 30-40 minutes. When the rice is done, use a spatula to gently sprinkle the rice into a serving dish. 

Mahi (Pan-Fried White Fish)


  • 3 large fillets of white fish cut into 6 pieces (skin on or off depending on your preference).
  • 1/4 tsp. ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp. boiling water.
  • Salt and pepper.


  • Season the fish with salt and pepper. Pour enough canola oil into a large frying pan so that there is a 1/4 inch of oil at the bottom.  Heat the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot put the fish in the pan.(do not crowd the pan).
  • Cook the first side until golden and crispy (about 5-6 minutes). Flip over and cook the second side until golden (about four minutes). Drain on paper towel.

This fish is traditionally served with wedges of Seville Orange (use lemons or limes if you can’t find any). Squeeze some of the juice over the fish just before eating. Enjoy!