Lubia polo (green bean rice) is one of the most popular Persian mixed-rices, especially in summertime, when the tomatoes and green beans are at their best. This dish is also called
estamboli polo (استامبولی پلو). When it is called estamboli polo, it can be made with or without green beans and/or meat, and/or topped with cubed deep-fried potatoes. It is a favorite dish of children, because the green beans and ripe tomatoes give a gentle sweetness to the rice, and if it comes with little deep-fried potatoes, even better!
My mother was famous for making superb lubia polo. Indeed, her lubia polo was the best I ever had.
I wondered exactly what made hers so delicious. Over time, I figured it out. As I mentioned in many of my previous posts, crispy caramelized onion(s) is/are “the” secret taste of more dishes than we can imagine. The more used the more delicious the dish is and it is evident for this dish.
Traditionally, to keep the rice grains in their whole shape and to steam them to a perfect result, before steaming, the mixture is added to the pot in alternating layers with rice. Because the cooked mixture has moisture, it is tricky to make sure the steamed rice does not end up mushy. Also, in almost every case, vegetables used for the mixtures are fried/sautéed, for better taste, the taste of caramelized vegetables. My approach in this recipe is not conventional, but it works and the rice dish turns out fabulously aromatic and exceptionally flavorful. This recipe has many direction steps because I have written as detailed as possible to make sure you’ll have a successful result.
Green Bean Rice • Lubia Polo • لوبیا پلو
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
To prepare the rice
• 450 g/ 2¼ cups basmati rice
• 2 Tbsp salt, divided
For the stewed meat
• 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 600 g/ 1.3 lbs stew meat, cut in 2.5cm/1″ cubes
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 bay-leaf
• 1½ cups water
For the mixture
• 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 250 g/ 8 oz onion, thinly slice
• 450 g/ 1 lb green beans, fresh or frozen, cut in 2.5 cm/1″ length
• ¼ cup hot water
• 2 Tbsp quality tomato paste
• 1 tsp red hot pepper paste -or- no more than a smidgen of powdered cayenne pepper
• ¼ tsp turmeric
• ¾ tsp salt + 1 tsp for blanching
• 1/16 tsp ground black pepper
• 1/16 ~ 1/8 tsp ground saffron, dissolved in 3~4 Tbsp hot water
To soak the rice
◊ Although today, clean, fine rice is available, some imported rice brands may contain small, non-rice particles which must be separated and removed by hand before washing. Also, some brands may need to be washed with extra agitation until water is clear. Put the rice in a large enough bowl with plenty of water and rub the rice between two hands to scrape off any powdery substance. Drain in a fine-meshed colander. Rinse the rice until clear water runs through.
◊ Put the washed rice in a bowl, add 1 Tbsp salt, cover with water level 3 cm/ 1″ above the rice, stir gently and set aside for more than an hour. This can be done in advance and soaked for 3+ hours. (Note: A faster step for cooking rice is… wash rice and soak without salt for 30 minutes, right before ready to boil the rice. Add 2 Tbsp salt -instead of 1 Tbsp- to boiling water and follow the next steps.)
For the stewed meat
◊ Add oil to a medium-sized saucepan and place it on high-heat. As soon as oil is hot, add cut onions and stirring constantly, sauté for 2 minutes. Add meat and sear all sides. Add water, garlic, bay-leaf, put the lid on and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 1½ hours, or until meat is cooked tender and soft. There should be ½ cup of liquid left. If needed, add a little water at a time not to scorch. (This may be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated or made in quantity and frozen in batches to use when needed.)
◊ In a non-stick large saucepan, heat 4 Tbsp vegetable oil on high. Add thinly sliced onion. When it starts boiling, lower heat to medium. Stirring frequently, caramelize onion, without burning. Scoop out the caramelized onion quickly and set aside. Pour the oil in a heatproof small bowl, it is used later.
◊ Fill the same saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt and then add the cut green beans. Boil until semi-cooked. Drain and shock the green beans in cold water to stop from cooking further and to maintain the vibrant green color. When cooled, drain and set aside.
◊ Use the same saucepan again. Add oil left from caramelized onion and tomato paste. On medium-high heat, fry the tomato paste by continuously stirring. As soon as indication of browning (no scorching), add ¼ cup hot water and hot pepper paste. Dissolve tomato paste and red hot pepper paste. Add turmeric, ¾ tsp salt and pepper. Put a lid on and bring the sauce to a boil and then lower heat to medium and simmer for 1 minute. Add stewed meat, 1/3 of the caramelized onion, and continue cooking (with lid on) until the sauce thickens to almost no liquid and the sauce cooking in the oil (no scorching). Turn off the heat, add blanched green beans, gently mix and leave the lid off.
To boil the rice
◊ Have a fine meshed colander ready in your sink, one with legs, so it doesn’t touch the sink bottom.
◊ Fill a 10 ~ 12 cup non-stick, approximately 25cm/10″ dia x 10cm/4″ deep pot, with 7~8 cups of water and 1 Tbsp salt. Bring to a boil. Drain water from the soaked rice and pour rice into the boiling water. Keep your attention on the pot or else foam from the boiling rice may overflow.
◊ As the rice starts to boil briskly, lower the heat to medium-high (or a tad lower, #6) and occasionally, gently stir the rice in a circular motion. After a couple of minutes, taste the boiling water (carefully, not to burn) to insure the salt content is to your taste. Add salt if needed. For this recipe, rice grains should not be soft or over-cooked during the boiling.
◊ In a few minutes, after rice begins bubbling like a fountain, it boils slower/thicker, test bite a grain to check its hardness. Do this repeatedly, as timing is very important. As soon as there is just a tad of hardness left to the rice (al dente), rice is ready. Drain the rice in the colander. Now, you must act quickly. Rinse the pot quickly and add 3 Tbsp vegetable oil to have it ready.
◊ Empty the rice into a large heat-safe bowl. Add saffron water and very gently, toss and incorporate saffron into the rice. Spread 2~3 spatulas of it into the pot for tah-dig (check out other types of tah-dig). After that, empty the green bean/meat mixture into the rice in the large bowl. Very gently, not to break the rice, briefly toss. With spatula, sprinkle the rice mixture into the pot. Keep it fluffy. Make steam vent holes by inserting a chopstick all the way in, a several places in the rice.
To steam the rice
◊ Cover the pot with 2 sheets of paper-towels and tightly put the lid on. On medium-low heat (#4), steam for 45 minutes.
◊ Dish out the rice, a spatula at a time and sprinkle on the serving platter (keeping the tah-dig intact at the bottom of the pot). Sprinkle the other 2/3 of caramelized onion a little over each layer and mostly on top. Loosen and dish out the tah-dig with wooden or plastic spatula and serve on the side of the rice or in a different dish.
~ Noushe jan! • نوش جان ~
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?