There's still a few weeks left until the official start of Spring/Spring equinox and Nowruz (Persian New Year). Iranians and many of the neighboring countries celebrate this ancient tradition and each year welcome the nature's rebirth and rejuvenation by starting the traditional khaneh tekani (spring cleaning). Khaneh tekani literally means to "shake the house" by cleaning every nook and cranny and getting the house in order from top to bottom! For instance, one can give the most overused room in the house where everybody hangs out a fresh coat of paint, clean the rugs, upholsteries and draperies and have the house all clean and organized in time for Persian New Year. Out with the old and in with the new!
Food is also an important part of the Nowruz celebrations and the traditional menu may vary by regions and household to household. Reshteh polow is a delicious rice dish that can be enjoyed throughout the year, however it is known as a New Year specialty. Reshteh (noodles) also means string and eating reshteh polow, preferably on the eve of Eid-e Nowruz, helps sar-reshteh kar dastet biad which means to grab hold of your your life and destiny and to attain success in life.
Reshteh Polow - Rice and Noodles
2 1/2 cups rice, rinsed
3-4 ounces of reshteh (toasted noodles), cut into small sized pieces. Reshteh may be found in Persian/Iranian grocery stores.
Butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon saffron powder dissolved in 3 tablespoons of hot water
1 large yellow onion
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup black raisins
1/2 cup dates
- Wash the rice with cool water a few times. Soak in 4 cups of water, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt and set aside for a couple of hours.
- In a large non-stick pot bring 5 cups of water to a rapid boil on high heat.
- Drain the soaked rice and gently pour into the pot. Bring the water back to a boil on high heat, add the toasted noodles and boil them together for about 7-10 minutes. Test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be firm in the center and soft on the outside. The noodles should also be somewhat soft yet a little firm. Then drain the rice and noodles in a fine mesh colander and rinse with cool water.
- Wash the pot and return to heat, add 2-3 tablespoons oil or butter and 1-2 tablespoons of liquid saffron. With a large spatula place the rice into the pot, 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.
- Leave the uncovered pot on medium-high heat for about 7-10 minutes or until the steam starts to come out, gently pour a cup of water over the rice, cover, steam the rice on low heat for another 45-50 minutes.
- Lightly brown thinly sliced onion in 2-3 tablespoons of hot oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add raisins, dates and saute lightly for 5 minutes. Set aside
- With a large scoop take some rice out of the pot and mix in with the dissolved saffron, set aside.