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Kalam Polo - Persian Cabbage Rice | I got it from my Maman

Kalam Polo

Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Keyword Cabbage, Ground Meat, Kalam Polo, Mince Meat, rice dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Steam time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 3 cups basmati rice (525g)
  • 0.55 lbs minced/ground beef (250g)
  • 8 cups water (2 litres)
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 0.9 lbs while cabbage (approx. half a head) (400g)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • 3 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste + 2 tsp salt to parboil rice


Chop the veg

  1. Slice the onion and finely chop the garlic. If you’re using half a cabbage head, halve it again into quarters. Them finely slice it, as if you were making coleslaw.

Cook the sauce for your Kalam Polo

  1. Fry the onions in the vegetable oil over medium heat. After 5 minutes you can add the garlic and let both fry gently together for another 5 minutes.

  2. Add 2 more tbsp vegetable oil to the pan. Once hot, add the ground/minced beef to it. Let the beef fry and change colour for about 5 minutes, then add the turmeric, black pepper and salt to the pan and combine everything.

  3. In another pan melt 3 tbsp ghee over medium temperature. Add the cabbage to the pan and put the lid on. Remove the lid after 5 minutes. Let the water evaporate and allow the cabbage to fry a little.

  4. After about 15 minutes transfer the meat and onions to the pan with the cabbage and add 1 cup of freshly boiled water. Combine everything and let the ingredients simmer together for 5 minutes.

Parboil the rice

  1. Bring 7 cups of water to boil in a large pan. Let 2 tsp salt dissolve in it. Parboil the rice so that it’s soft on the outside but uncooked in the centre (al dente so to speak). This can take anything from 3 to 7 minutes. I usually use Tilda Basmati rice and parboiling it 5 minutes is long enough to get it to that stage.

  2. Drain the rice in a strainer and rinse it with cool water to interrupt the cooking process and wash off any excess salt. Let any water drain away.

Layer the Kalam Polo

  1. Add 3 tbsp vegetable oil and 3 tbsp water to a coated pan and place it over medium heat.

  2. Add a few tbsp of the cabbage beef mixture to the bottom of the pan until it’s just covered. Then add a few spoons of rice on top of it. Sprinkle with cinnamon powder. Now add another layer of sauce, then rice, then cinnamon, and so on until all the ingredients are used. Finish with a layer of sauce. The rice should be in a pyramid or heap shape. 

  3. Sprinkle the rice “pyramid” with 2 tbsp freshly boiled water. Poke 5 holes into the rice, all the way to the bottom of the pan. This will further help the moisture evaporate. Once you see steam rising from the rice, cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel, press it firmly on the pan and reduce the heat to low.. Let the Kalam Polo steam over low heat for one hour.

Serve your delicious Kalam Polo

  1. To make sure the Kalam Polo is ready, you can carefully touch the outside of the pan with the tip of a wet kitchen towel. If it makes a sound like “tshhh”, it means any moisture is gone and your Kalam Polo is ready.

  2. In order to get the tahdig (the crispy bits in the bottom of the pan) out easily, you can submerge the pan into a sink filled with a little cool water. 

  3. Serve your delicious Kalam Polo with Salad Shirazitorshi (pickles), yoghurt or any sides you like. Enjoy!