Kalam Polow - Cabbage Rice

This is another great variation of rice that is a staple in Iranian cooking. Even though I've had kalam polow in the past, I must say that I didn't particularly care for it until recently. I think liking cabbage is an acquired taste. Now that I have grown to like it, I add plenty to the pickles (torshi) I make. I eat it raw as a snack or mix it with rice. For this dish, vegetarians can skip making meatballs altogether. Cabbage rice is a rich and fulfilling meal on its own. And for those days when there isn't enough time to patiently make little meatballs, just use cooked ground beef instead, it’s equally delicious.

Kalam Polow - Cabbage Rice

Serves 4-6

2 cups long grain white rice, washed and soaked in 4 cups of salted water
1 pound ground beef
2 cups shredded white cabbage
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or advieh (Iranian allspice)
1/2 teaspoon saffron dissolved in 3-4 tablespoons of hot water
Salt and pepper -- to taste
Vegetable oil

  1. Wash rice with cool water a few times. Soak in 4 cups of water, add salt and set aside for a couple of hours.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine the ground beef, turmeric, salt and pepper. Mix well by hand and make mini meatballs.
  3. In a large skillet saute the chopped onions in two tablespoons of oil over medium heat until transparent, add turmeric and stir. Place the tiny meatballs into the pan, brown on all sides, stir in the tomato sauce. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on low heat.
  4. In a frying pan, saute shredded cabbage in 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat for ten minutes or until cabbage becomes soft and tender, add advieh, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. In a large non-stick pan that has a tight fitting lid, bring 6 cups of water to a rapid boil. Drain rice and pour into the boiling water. Bring water back to boil for 10 minutes. Test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be firm in the center and soft on the outside. Drain and rinse with cool water. Wash the pot and return to heat, add oil and a tablespoon of liquid saffron to the pan. Place a layer of rice into the pan, then place a layer of  the shredded cabbage, another layer of rice, building it into a pyramid shape. In order to release the steam make 2-3 holes in the rice with the bottom of the spatula. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium-high heat until rice is steaming. Lower the heat and steam the rice for another 50 minutes.  
Serve kalam polow on a platter and gently spread the meatballs all over the rice. Serve along with mast-o-khiar and fresh herbs or torshi.



  1. Azita jan all of your rice dishes are superb. i love going through the recipes and photos :) shab b'khair. x shayma

  2. Dearest Shayma, I appreciate your comments very much and the fact that you take time from your busy schedule to go through the recipes means a lot to me. You make my day! x