Serves a Crowd

Jeweled Rice (Iranian / Persian Morausa Polo)

March 23, 2012
0 Ratings
  • Serves 6-8 (see endnotes)
Author Notes

This is a festive dish that serves as a centerpiece in many large Iranian dinner parties. There might be other dishes at the table that one might pass; jeweled rice would not be one of them. Layering of barberries, currant raisins, candied orange peels, saffron, slivered almonds and pistachios on top of a bed of steamed rice is where this rice dish gets its name from. —cookingProf

What You'll Need
  • Rice
  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 6 quarts Water
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1 Pita bread (or Gyros flat bread split in two rounds)
  • 2 tablespoons Butter or olive oil.
  • Toppings
  • 6-7 peices of chicken tenderloins (may be left out for a tasty vegetarian dish)
  • 1 tablespoon Dehydrated minced onions
  • 2 generous pinches of saffron
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Peels from one orange (white pith removed, sliced thinly)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Barberries (see endnotes)
  • 1/2 cup Currant raisins (may use golden raisins)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/8 cup slivered pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons Orange blossom water (see endnotes)
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Butter (use olive oil for a vegan dish)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  1. Rice
  2. Rinse the rice. Put the rice, 6 quarts of cold water and 3 tbsp of salt in a pot. Bring the water to a full rolling boil over high heat. Boil for 2-3 extra minutes or until the rice is soft but still chewy in the center. Pour the rice through a colander and rise with a few cups of cold water.
  3. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to a nonstick pot. Moisten the pita bread by quickly running it under the tap water. Place the bread at the bottom of the pot and cover it with rice, forming a pyramid of the rice. Poke a few holes in the rice (with a wooden spoon handle) to let steam travel evenly through the rice. Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil or dot the rice with 2 tbsp of butter. Cover the pot with a dish towel or a couple of layers of paper towel. Put the lid on tightly. Place the pot over high heat for just one minute to heat the pot and start the steaming process. Lower the heat to medium low and steam the rice for 20-25 minutes.
  1. Toppings
  2. Pulverize the saffron with 1/2 tsp of sugar in mortar and pestle. Put the saffron in a small bowl and pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over it. Set it aside to steep.
  3. Pat-dry the chicken tenderloins and cut them diagonally into thin strips. Marinate the chicken with the dehydrated onions, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and two tbsp of the saffron water (steeped earlier) for about 30 minutes.
  4. Pick through the barberries for any stems or dried leaf remnants. Rinse well through a colander and soak in cold water for about 10 minutes. Do the same for the raisins in a separate bowl.
  5. Put the slivered orange peels in a small pot and boil with 2-3 cups of water for about 3-4 minutes. Empty the water through a colander, rinse the peels and repeat the process once or twice more to get the bitter taste out. Once ready, put the peels back in the pot and add a cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar. Cook over medium low heat until the peels are translucent and the syrup has thickened.
  6. Remover the orange peels from the syrup and set aside. Add two tbsp of orange blossom water and 1/2 cup of slivered almonds to the pot containing the orange syrup. You may need to add a few tbsp of water to thin the syrup. Bring the syrup to a boil and let the almonds soak in the hot syrup. Note: I have been using the peels from a batch of preserved seville orange peels that I made recently. To avoid this step, you might use orange marmalade thinned out with water and a couple of extra tbsp of sugar.
  7. If slivered pistachios are not available, you may use shelled raw pistachios. Soak them in cold water for an hour. The outside membrane can be easily removed and the pistachios must be ready to sliver easily.
  8. Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a pan and add the drained barberries, raisins, orange peels and 3 tbsp of sugar. Heat through and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  9. A few minutes before serving the dish, put the marinated chicken in a pan and salt and pepper to taste. Flash-cook the chicken over high heat until just cooked through and no longer pink.
  10. Put about a cup or more of the rice in a separate bowl and soak it with the remaining saffron water. Using a spatula, pile the steamed rice into a serving platter. Form stripes of the raisin/barberry mix, chicken, slivered almonds, and the saffron rice over the mound of white rice. Drizzle any remaining orange blossom water left from the almonds over the platter. Garnish the platter with slivered pistachios.
  11. The crispy bread at the bottom is called "tahdig" (literally, bottom of the pot). You must feel extra special if you are offered an extra serving of the tahdig at the table. Cut the tahdig into pieces and serve on the side. Enjoy!
  12. ENDNOTE #1: Barberries come from the fruit-bearing variety of the barberry bushes used in landscaping in the US. Barberries can be found at most Middle Eastern food stores or online (checkout for barberries and currant raisins). Orange blossom water is available at most Middle Eastern stores or online. It also makes a perfect addition in any orange juice-based cocktail.
  13. ENDNOTE #2: This recipe can be halved easily. However, you will need a whole pita and the full 1/4 cup of olive oil for the bottom of the rice to get a crispy tahdig.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • cookingProf
  • Leslie Vean
    Leslie Vean

Recipe by: cookingProf

I was gifted with the love for cooking as a very young girl growing up in Tehran. I would follow my grandmother to the fresh produce market every day in summer days and help carry her basket home. I would then stand around at her foot in the kitchen and she would reward me with delicious morsels of the food she was cooking. My two prominent occupations/preoccupations are cooking and teaching computer science/writing computer programs. I find both equally rewarding.

3 Reviews

Leslie V. January 14, 2015
Would love to make this but won't find any barberries and have no idea what they taste like to think of a substitute ... dried blueberries, cranberries, juniper berries?
AntoniaJames September 28, 2012
This is just gorgeous! I look forward to trying it soon. (Plus, I'm happy for the excuse to run down to my favorite Middle Eastern market , , , the perfect venue for prowling around, looking for interesting new food items.) The photo's beautiful, too. Love that serving plate, especially for this dish! Thank you for posting this. ;o)
cookingProf September 29, 2012
Thank you, Antonia. I love travel-by-taste and trying new ingredients from far-away places in my cooking.