May 24, 2010

Maygoo Polow-Khuzestani - Southern Iranian Spicy Shrimp & Rice

My earliest memories of food involving shrimp goes back to my childhood in the city of Bandar Mah-Shahr, meaning the "port-city of the moon," located in the southwestern region of Khuzestan. I don't remember much about how the town looked like and what life was like outside of our home. However, I remember some of the food my mother made using the local shrimp, such as the the shrimp and herb stew (ghalieh maygoo), a simple spicy sauteed shrimp dish which I make frequently. Then there were these tin containers in our kitchen filled with large, salted shrimps. Those shrimps wouldn't get to be cooked and served for we liked to eat them as a snacks; removing the heads, tails and the shells one by one before eating them, which was a messy but fun thing to do at the time! 

Seafood is an integral part of the Khuzestani cuisine. Although, Iranian cuisine in general is neither hot nor spicy, many Khuzestani meals are rather hot and heavily spiced. Naturally, this varies from town to town and household to household, depending on individual tastes. For instance, even though I grew up with spicy food I rarely ever cook or eat spicy or hot foods, and when a recipe calls for hot peppers I usually only use a little bit of red pepper flakes for that additional zest. Therefore, if you prefer, add some extra cayenne pepper during marination of the shrimp. 

میگو پلو Maygoo Polow (spicy shrimp and rice) is made with spicy marinated shrimp and rice. I would like to point out that when using shrimp (fresh or frozen) to make sure that they don't smell, especially for this dish in which rice and shrimp will be cooking together, otherwise the smell will ruin the dish.

Maygoo Polow - Rice with shrimp

Serves 4

For the Rice:

2 cups basmati rice
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted (for drizzling over the rice) *optional
1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 3 tablespoons of hot water

For the Shrimp:

2 cups fresh baby shrimps
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1/3 ground Persian limes (limoo amani)
1/4 teaspoon dried fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon Salt or to taste

  1. Wash rice with cool water and soak in 8 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of salt for 2 hours. Drain.
  2. Rinse the shrimp with cool water, drain. 
  3. In a bowl, combine the shrimp with minced garlic, black pepper, red pepper, fenugreek, turmeric, ground limoo amani and salt, set aside for an hour.
  4. In a non-stick pot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Drain rice and gently pour into boiling water. Bring water back to a boil for about 7 minutes. Test to see if rice is ready, it should be firm in the center and soft on the outside. Strain and rinse with cool water.
  5. Wash the pot and return to heat. Add 4 tablespoons oil to the bottom of the pot and with a large spoon place rice in the pot, layering it with the marinated shrimp and building it into a pyramid shape. Make a few holes in the rice to let the steam out. Cook for about 7 minutes on medium-high heat. When rice starts steaming sprinkle 2 tablespoons oil, 2-3 tablespoons of water and the saffron over rice, cover, lower the heat and steam for about 45 minutes. 
Serve warm on a platter with yogurt and pickles.

*Variation: Saute a large thinly sliced onion in 2 tablespoons of oil, add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, turmeric, stir, add the shrimp, salt, black pepper, red pepper, ground lime and fenugreek, cook for a few minutes or until shrimp begin to change color. Then add it to the rice.



  1. This dish sounds delicious like a curry with the turmeric and cardamon, and other spices. I look forward to trying this one for myself.

  2. This sounds amazing with saffron in the rice and all the spices for the shrimp!

  3. Azita

    I am a great fan of Persian cuisine and this dish you are presenting today is new to me; however it is delicate and subtle in flavors yet rich and deep with the saffron. Always love that Basmati; which brand do you recommend?

  4. Taste of Beirut, I would recommend Lal Quila, Tilda but my favorite brand is "ahoo-barreh", it comes out perfect and fluffy every time.

  5. I love recipes that have all of these memories attached to them! This dish looks delicious with all of these herbs. So good!

  6. Dear Azita,

    Your website transports me to very happy memories of south Iran; the smells of fresh seafood; the wafts of spicy air in a kitchen... Thank you so very much for your adventerous website.

    Best wishes,

  7. yumm, shrip pulau , looks delish. is there a difference between powdered saffron and saffron strands , ihave saffron strands so if i was to to make this how much do you think should i use, tiny pinch?

  8. Peanutts, I have saffron strands too and I would use a tiny pinch of saffron and crush it into a powder.

  9. Azita, what a beautiful rice dish...we love basmati rice...and shrimp, so we will definitely go for it :-)

  10. This sounds so good Azita. Reminds me of biryani that we make. I got a bag if shrimp and my kids and I love shrimp. I will keep this recipe in mind when I am making shrimp.. soon!

  11. My sister is allergic to shrimp. Do you think I could substitute it with diced chicken?

  12. Anonymous, yes, you can definitely substitute it with diced chicken and it will be equally delicious. Enjoy and thanks for visiting.

  13. My husband is from Ahwaz Iran, so when I came across this recipe I decided to surprise him. He said that it is absolutely delicious. I will definitely make this again. Thank you so much!

  14. Hi Azita jan, I cooked this polo today. It was wonderful; tastes just perfect. Happy Nowrooz.

  15. this does look delicious.... i make my maygoo polo totally different though. maybe it depends on the area are from. i like to use large shrimp cut into bite sized pieces and cooked with some butter, turmeric,a bit of garlic powder, and saffron. sauteed onion slivers, ground sauteed walnuts, and sauteed golden raisins or currants. it makes a wonderful taste combination..... savory and sweet.