Go Back
Sabzi Polo baa Maahi

Sabzi Polo baa Maahi

Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Keyword fish, herbs, maahi, Rice, sabzi polo, sea bass
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Resting Time 4 hours
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Hami


For the fish

  • 2 whole sea bass (approx. 1kg / 2.2 lbs together)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (100ml)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • Salt

For the rice

  • 2 1/4 cups basmati rice (450g)
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • 1 bunch garlic chives (or regular chives)
  • 1 bunch fenugreek (if available)
  • 1 stem leek (optional)
  • 1 bulb fresh garlic
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • Salt


  • 5 bergamot oranges or lemons
  • 2 bulbs pickled garlic


Prepare the fish

  1. Once your fish is clean, meaning it’s gutted, washed, and all the scales are removed make a few cuts in both sides so it can absorb more of the spice rub you’re about to add. 
  2. Season both sides and the inside with turmeric, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt, making sure it goes in all the cuts you made.  

  3. Slice up a lemon (or bergamot orange) and lay the slices on top and inside the sea bass. Cover with cling film and put it in the fridge. You can leave it there a few hours until you are ready to prepare it.

Start frying the fish about 10 minutes before the rice is ready

  1. Put a large frying pan on high heat and add the vegetable oil. You can test if the oil is hot enough by holding your wooden spoon in. If bubbles build around the spoon the oil is hot enough to fry the fish. Carefully transfer the fish in the pan and fry until it has the desired colour and crispiness, than turn it around (mine took about 3 minutes on each side).

Cook the rice


  1. Wash the rice by moving it around with your hand in a bowl of water and draining it. Repeat this process 4 to 5 times. In Iran the rice is soaked in water for a few hours before cooking. However I found that the rice you get here in the UK doesn’t necessarily need any soaking. I’m usually using Tilda basmati rice which softens and cooks quickly. Depending on the rice you’re using, you might wanna soak it for a while in salted water. Unfortunately there is no one-fits-all recipe for this, it needs some experimenting.

  2. Wash the herbs and spread them on a clean kitchen towel to dry. 
  3. Transfer the saffron into a glass and add freshly boiled water to it. Stir well and set it aside in a warm place.

  4. Chop the herbs in about about 1 cm / 0.4” long pieces. Skin off the fresh garlic and cut it into fine slices, then mix it in with the herbs.
  5. Add 18 cups of water to a large pan and bring it to boil. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water. Add 3 tbsp of salt. Don’t worry about adding too much, it will be rinsed off later. Keep the temperature medium to high.

  6. After 3 to 10 minutes carefully remove a rice corn with a spoon to see if they are ready. You can cut one rice corn or bite through it to test. The outside should be soft but the centre should still have quite a bit of bite. 

  7. If ready drain the rice in a colander and rinse it with cold water to wash off the excess salt and interrupt the cooking process. Again, the exact time depends on how quickly your rice cooks. The Tilda rice I used was pre-cooked after only 3 minutes.

  8. Now add 3 tbsp of ghee to the pan over low heat and once it has melted add 2 tbsp of water. 

  9. Then spread about a handful of your fresh herbs across the bottom of your pan and cover it with a layer of rice. Add more herbs and more rice, creating several layers forming a tall heap or a cone shape. 

  10. Poke some holes in the rice with the wrong side of a wooden spoon. This will allow the steam to rise more easily.
  11. Line the lid with a clean kitchen towel so more moisture can be absorbed and cover the pan with it. Leave it over a small heat for 45 to 60 minutes. Start frying your fish about 10 minutes towards the end.

  12. When steam is rising from the pan you know it’s ready, however you can leave it longer for a darker, crispier tadig. Tadig is what we call the crispy part of the rice from the bottom of the pan. 
  13. To get the rice including your tadig out easily, you can fill your kitchen sink with a bit of cold water and submerge your pan into it. 
  14. Transfer up to a quarter of your rice into a separate bowl and add the saffron infused water to it. Stir it until it’s evenly golden yellow. Arrange it on top of the rest of the rice on a serving plate.


  1. Transfer the saffron into a glass and add a few tbsp freshly boiled water to it. Stir well and set it aside in a warm place. Wash the rice until the water a few times until the water runs clearer. 

  2. Add about 4 1/4 cups of water to the rice. A helpful tip is to hold your index finger vertically in the pan with the rice until it barely touches the surface of the rice and add water until your fingertip is covered. Add salt and put it on medium heat.
  3. Skin off 5 cloves of fresh garlic and cut them into fine slices. 

  4. Once most of the water in the rice pan has evaporated and small holes start forming in the rice, add in the dried herbs, fresh garlic, and ghee and stir them in. Add the lid (line it with a clean kitchen towel to absorb more moisture) and reduce the temperature to low. 

  5. After 40 minutes your rice should be ready. You can test it by wetting the edge of a kitchen towel and touching the outside of the pan with it. If it makes a sound like zshh and dries immediately it means the water has evaporated and the rice is done.
  6. Transfer up to a quarter of your rice into a separate bowl and add the saffron infused water to it. Stir it until it’s evenly golden yellow. Arrange it on top of the rest of the rice on a serving plate.


  1. Serve with the fish, bergamot oranges, or lemons, and pickled garlic. Enjoy!