January 10, 2011

Javaher Polow - Persian Jeweled Rice

Persian Jeweled Rice

جواهرپلو Javaher Polow (jeweled rice) is a traditional rice dish for weddings, engagement parties and other joyous celebrations. I thought this would make a fitting first post for the new year. The combination of colors, textures, flavors and aromas of saffron basmati rice layered with slivered pistachios, almonds, raisins, barberries, julienne-cut carrots and skin is truly a cheerful feast for your eyes and senses.

The word javaher (jewel) was a frequently uttered word in childhood stories that I would hear from Halimeh, my daieh (nanny). She was abandoned by her father and her stepmother at only ten years old and somehow found her way to my grandparent's home and lived with my grandmother till the last years of her life. She was quite a charming storyteller with a talent for tales of  kings, queens, princesses, stories of dokhtar-e shah parian, malek Jamshid, malek Khorshid and many others. Her fascinating fairy-tales would take me to a  fantasy world of aristocracy where the girl would always end up marrying her prince charming and lead a lavish life with all things made of gold and covered with the most brilliant diamonds, fiery red rubies, the greenest emeralds and the largest pearls!

Then, I would go to my mother with these magical stories. She would pause for a moment, smile, and tell me one of her own ancient fables (the long versions!) to teach me lessons, bring me back to reality and put my feet firmly on the ground. One of those such stories was of Molla Nasr al-din, a satirical wise man who lived during the Middle Ages. His anecdotal stories are well known in Iran and many of the neighboring countries in the region. Here's a brief version of it:

Molla was invited to the house of a nobleman in his town. He chose to wear his warm, comfortable and shabby clothes. When he arrived at the door, the doorman quickly turned him back for he did not look prim and proper enough. Molla goes home and puts his best garment on with silver trimmings around his high fancy collar and his long sleeves. He combed his hair and put on some perfume and headed to the dinner party. When he arrived, he was well received and was offered the seat at the top of the sofreh (table cloth). To everyone's dismay, Molla scooped some soup out and poured it all over his jacket. Then he placed some rice in his pocket and topped it with some lamb stew. As he was stuffing food in his sleeves he was stopped by the nobleman who demanded an explanation for Molla's mad behavior. Molla responded, "When I came in the first time, with my comfortable home clothes, you didn't let me in the house. Now that I put on this fancy jacket I am suddenly treated with respect. Since these are the clothes that get recognized I might as well feed the food to the jacket!"

Javaher Polow - Persian Jeweled Rice

Serves 4-6

2 1/2 cups long grain white basmati rice
1 medium onion, peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced pistachios, may be soaked in cool water to soften
1/2 cup slivered almonds, may be soaked in cool water prior to cooking to soften
1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts *optional
1 cup barberries, may be found in middle-eastern grocery stores
1/2 cup raisins, I used a combination of both black and golden raisins
1/2 cup julienne-cut carrots
2 large oranges, wash, dry, makes about 1/2 cup julienne cut orange skin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 3-4 tablespoons of hot water
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed rose petals
1/3 teaspoon turmeric

  1. In a large bowl wash the rice with cool water a few times. Soak the rice in 8 cups of water, add 4 tablespoons of salt and set aside for a couple of hours.
  2.  In a large pot bring 3 quarts of water to a rapid boil on medium-high heat. Drain the soaked rice and gently pour into the pot. Bring the water back to the boil for about 7 minutes or until the rice grains expand in length, the ends are soft to the touch and the center of the grain still has a bite to it. Drain in a colander, rinse with cool water. Set aside.
  3. Peel the orange skin, remove the white part and cut the orange peel into thin stripes. Soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat 2-3 more times.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup of sugar and a cup of water in a pan over medium heat, gently boil for 7-10 minutes or until the sugar dissolves completely and thickens slightly. Add the orange zest and carrots and cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat.
  5.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and in a large skillet, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, when hot saute the onions until golden brown, add turmeric and stir well. Add barberries, saute for 5 minutes on medium to low heat, add raisins, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top and mix well.
  6. Mix in the carrots and orange zest. Sprinkle the spices, taste and adjust the seasoning.   
  7. Add pistachios and almonds, mix well.
  8. In a large, non-stick rice pot, heat 4 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Gently layer the rice with the nuts and carrot mixture into a pyramid shape. 
  9. Cook on medium-high heat for 7 minutes, lower the heat when you see the rice starting to steam. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup of water and the saffron over the rice. Cover the lid in a clean dish cloth or thick paper towels. Cover the rice pot and cook for 45-50 minutes over low heat. Don't open the lid before the rice is done cooking.  
To serve, mound rice on a serving platter. Garnish and serve warm. Jeweled rice may be served with chicken, small meatballs, salad and yogurt. 

 * Variation:
 Cook the rice separately and and garnish with the nuts, carrots, raisins, orange zest and barberries right before serving. Keep the mixture warm until ready to layer, garnish and serve.



  1. This rice is coming straight out of a fairy tale. Wow!

  2. hello azita, happy new year!! thats a beautiful looking rice dish, very festive too. We say javahir in our language :)

  3. Truly wonderful--this recipe is bookmarked for sure !

  4. Hi Azita,
    This is truly a fantastic dish and a lovely post about your childhood :-) Thanks for sending it to AWED on Persian food! And I love Molla Nasr ud-din's tales, too!

  5. oh Azita..you made me hungry! I love this rice. Wish we are in the same neighbourhood so i will stop by :)

  6. Azita, this rice dish is absolutely gorgeous, must taste SO good with all the ingredients in it. Great photos!

  7. What a wonderful story, and i have to say that I would be entranced with stories like that growing up. I confess that javaher Polow is one of my favorite dishes, and you now have me craving it.

  8. I have been looking for a good persian food blog. And i just wanted to say that i absolutely LOVE your blog. its very well done.

    1. hello Azita khanom,

      Thank you so much for posting this wonderful recipe. I would like to ask you which style do you use when making this dish. Do you cook the rice seperately and then mix it with the mixture, or you mix them all and then cook? Now my other questions are. 1- When all is mixed togeteher and cookes, does it get kind of like sticky rice rather fluffy rice? And if rice is cooked seperately, and then mixed with the mixture, it means that the mixture is missing t 40-50 minutes cooking time, so how would this work? Will the mixture without this long cooking time still be fine? I appreciate your reply. Thank you again,
      and HAPPY NAW RUZ.

    2. Hello, I cook the rice separately and then layer the parboiled rice and the mixture and let them steam together until done. In this method the rice may not be as fluffy as you would have liked it to be. However, it's tastier. The second method is to cook the rice and the mixture separately and layer them together when serving the rice on the platter. This way you'll have the fluffy rice. You can cook the mixture 10-15 minutes to soften the nuts. Happy Nowruz!

  9. Hi Azita!
    Congratulations, i like very much your blog.
    I was intrigued by this rice, it reminds me of a similar afghan recipe called "zarda palau", so i was wondering if it could make sense to use soaked cranberries in place of barberries because i can't find the latter here or is it better to just leave them out?
    Any advice is welcome!

  10. @Byte64, Hi,you can use soaked cranberries instead. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and your kind comments!
    Best wishes,

  11. Thanks you for this wonderful recipe. It turned out great even without the saffron, cardamom, and rose petals, none of which are available where I live. And the story was most edifying! A most entertaining blog!

  12. Hi Azita,

    while visiting my family, I did this recipe for new year's eve lunch. As I don't find zereshk here, I added cranberries instead as you wrote in another recipe. It was a huge success! Loved the scent. I think I'll try combining zereshk and cranberries as one of your readers suggested elsewhere.

  13. Is this the same as Shireen Polo aka Wedding rice. It looks like it...but I'm not positive. These recipes look gorgeous, and very authentic!

  14. WOW. I tried this tonight to take to my ex MIL because he brother just passed. I know this is something she just can't pass up. =-) It is AMAZING. Just as good as any Persian spot in town.

  15. this looks absolutely amazing, i have to make it soon!!

  16. I've been making parboiled & steamed rice for several years now. This recipe was familiar but I hadn't tried it until last month. WOW! I served it to dinner guests earlier this month and they couldn't get enough. I sent them home with a huge tupperware full of this beautiful rice dish. Thanks for the tip about soaking the orange rind and then candying them together with the carrot. That really makes the rice "savory".

  17. Hi there, I live in Belgium. I made this delicious dish for my sons school dinner party and everybody just loved it!! Thank you so much :)

  18. hi!! great recipe. what is the measurement for the ground cumin? currently it says 1/ teaspoon and i was wondering if there's a number missing. thanks

  19. This was the first rice dish I have ever made and it was a great success. It was an absolute burst of flavour and enjoyed by all. Instructions are clear so you're sure to have a success if you follow to a tee. I even had a great tahdig!

  20. Hi Azita, I want to make this for Thanksgiving. How far in advance can I make the mixture and store in refrigerator before mixing with rice? This will go perfectly with turkey!

    1. Hi Helene, the mixture can be made and refrigerated up to two days. Happy Thanksgiving!

  21. Recently made this dish to great applause and now seeing this on your fabulous site makes me excited to try some of your other recipes. Its a keeper.

  22. Thank you for this wonderful rice dish. I make it in my pressure cooker( high pressure for 10 minutes and then let it stand for 10 minutes before you manually release pressure) It comes out amazing every time!