Adas Polo - Persian Rice With Lentils

I met Isaiah my freshman year in college when I worked at Intramural Sports (I bet you did not know that about me) and we quickly bonded over sports, reading, and our affinity for foreign food. Eating it on my end, and making it on his.

Isaiah spent a large part of his childhood in the island of Yap in Micronesia (I bet you didn't know that was a place) and I could spend hours listening to the stories he had to tell of this fantastic part of the world. It is in this island where his mom learned this recipe from a friend and passed it on to Isaiah, who made it a million times for me in our 4 years as undergrads.

Bless his heart.

At some point he gave me the recipe and I lost it, but I was lucky enough to have him back visiting for a few days last week, and I practically threatened to not let him leave the state until he gave me the recipe again. Being the amazing soul he is, Isaiah did not just give me the recipe, he cooked for me! Again! Just like old times, and it was amazing.

Thank you Isaiah: for your friendship, for instilling in me your love for running, for cooking for me countless plates of Persian rice and pasta and pesto. Lord knows I will never look at fresh basil without thinking of you. Miss you and love you.

A note from Isaiah: There are many variations of this polo/pilow dishes in Persian cuisine, and it is the etymological root of "pilaf", the broth-rice dishes which are widespread in the Middle East, Turkic cultures, and elsewhere.

A note from me: I learned to add Spike Seasoning to this as a 'garnish' on top of the yogurt at the end, right before eating it. Isaiah forbade me from telling you this because he didn't want the Persian community to send us hate mail for defacing their dish. So I take full responsibility and any and all liability lies with me. Go ahead, add Spike. It will change your life.

(serves 4)


2 cups basmati rice
1 medium yellow onion - thinly julienned
1/2 cup green lentils
1 medium potato
1lb. ground turkey (or ground beef)
1/3 cup raisins
1tbsp. cinnamon
1tsp. turmeric
1/3 cup chopped baby carrots (optional)
water, salt, olive oil
Natural yogurt (optional)


  Rinse several times draining water each time
  (my mom rinses 7 times but i'm not that patient)
  Soak for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer (cooks faster and enhances flavor)

  Rinse several times as they can be grimy
  Pre-soak lentils for at least 30 minutes


(preparation can be parallelized with a bit of practice)

  Bring to boil in 4 cups water, pinch of salt, and spot of olive oil
  Cook 4-5 minutes until just-soft (yes I know it's not pasta, but sort of al-dente: soft but still just   slightly crunchy in the middle)
  Drain rice and put aside

  Bring soaked lentils to boil, and then lower heat a little bit and high-simmer until soft
  Drain and put aside
  (optionally can add cumin, garlic powder, etc. for more flavor)

  Meat, onions, (carrots):
  Brown meat in skillet, drain off extra oil/water if applicable
  Add cinammon and turmeric
  After browning, push meat to outside edges of pan to create opening in center
  Add oil in center, and sautee onions

  (optional: mix in carrots at end after heat off, so they get some seasoning but don't really cook. They will cook in steam later)

  Slice breadth-wise, not too thick, about 1/2 to 1 cm
  Put 1 tbsp of canola or olive oil into bottom of main pan
  Heat oil at 350 or medium-high heat (my pan has the thermometer setting)
  Cover bottom of pan with adjacent potato slices (don't stack, they won't cook)
  Cook ~5 mins or so until they get tender around the outside (make sure to nudge them a few times to unstick, if not using a nonstick pan)

  Put 1/2 of the rice in a layer on top of potatos
  Put 1/2 of lentils as next layer
  Put 1/2 of meat/onion/carrot mix as next layer, then sprinkle 1/2 of raisins
  Add the remaining rice, then repeat the lentils/meat/etc. layer

  Pour a little bit of water (maybe 1/4 cup or less) down the side of the pan at a few points around the circle (so it flows down to bottom) to get the steam going

 Turn heat up to 400 (if using the presto above), or medium-high on a range. Leave at higher heat for less than five minutes, then turn to very low. The goal is to steam the whole dish. Using a glass lid is helpful because the condensation on the lid indicates steam without needing to open and release. Be very careful and pay close attention here because if it is hot for too long, the bottom of the dish might burn (I made this mistake several times during the first few attempts). Leave on low heat for another 8-12 minutes.

Now remove the pot lid, and put a serving platter (or cookie sheet...), on top of the pan, and flip upside-down in one motion (be very careful!!!).

This is how you get the nice crispy potatoes on top :) make sure the platter-device has a little bit of extra room on the sides because sometimes the rice pile will collapse when you remove the pan -- remove it slowly. Otherwise, just scoop out.

Optionally serve with yogurt.

Enjoy :)



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