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Estamboli Polo - Persian Spiced Lamb Rice with Potato Fries

Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Keyword Estamboli Polo, lamb rice, rice dish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings 4 people


  • 500 g lamb leg or shoulder (1.1 lbs)
  • 1/2 piece beef bone with marrow (optional)
  • 500 g basmati rice (2.5 cups)
  • 3 medium sized potatoes [optional] (450g/1lbs)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 240 ml vegetable oil (for the fries) (1 cup)
  • 9 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 2 tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 2 ice cubes to bloom the saffron (alternatively you can use a few tbsp hot water)


Prep the ingredients

  1. Transfer the ice cubes into a glass. Sprinkle the saffron over them and set it aside for later.

  2. Cut the lamb leg or shoulder into approx. 1 inch / 2.5cm large cubes.

Cook the sauce

  1. Sauté the lamb pieces in 4 tbsp hot vegetable oil for about until they are golden brown from each side. 

  2. Bring 2.5 cups/700ml water to boil in a kettle.

  3. Remove the meat from the pan, leaving the oil in. Add 2 more tbsp vegetable oil, if necessary. 

  4. Gently sauté the finely chopped onions in the same oil over low to medium temperature for about 3 minutes. Then add the chopped garlic and sauté them together for another minute.

  5. Now add the tomato paste, coriander powder, cumin powder, dried oregano and black pepper to the meat, onions and garlic. Let everything sauté together for about 30 seconds while stirring, then add 2.5cups/700ml freshly boiled water to the pan and combine everything well.

  6. Additionally I added a beef bone with marrow for extra flavour, but this is optional. 

  7. But on the lid and let the sauce simmer for 2.5h over low heat. Once the sauce is ready, add the saffron water to it and stir it in.

Parboil the rice

  1. Wash the rice by moving it around in a bowl of water, draining it, adding fresh water, and repeating this process 4 to 5 times.

  2. Bring water to boil in a large pan. Add 2 tbsp of salt.

  3. Once the water is boiling add the rice to it and briefly stir to make sure it does not stick together. 

  4. After 2 to 5 minutes (depending on the rice you use) fish out a rice corn and either bite or cut through it. The rice corn should only be cooked by about a third. The very outer layer of the rice corn should be soft and look translucent and 2/3 in the centre should still be firm and appear opaque white. 

  5. Usually we let the rice half cook, but for dishes like Estamboli Polo and Loobia Polo the rice should be more than al dente, because it will soften further in the pan. 

  6. Drain the rice in a colander and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. This will interrupt the cooking process as well as wash off any excess salt.

  7. Layer the rice and sauce

  8. If you like, you can make a potato tahdig with this dish. Tahdig is the crispy part of the rice from the bottom of the pan. Wether you want to make it with potatoes or keep it simple with rice only, it will turn out heavenly!

  9. If you want to make potato tahdig, peel one of the potatoes cut it in about 0.5cm/0.2″ thin slices.

  10. Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil to a coated or cast aluminium pan with lid over medium heat. Then lay the potato slices in the bottom of the pan. Let the potato slices sizzle in the oil for about a minute, before you add the first layer of rice.

  11. Now add thin a layer of parboiled rice. Add some sauce, including a few chunks of meat. Continue with thin a layer of rice and so on, until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of sauce.

  12. Poke a few holes through the rice with the back of a wooden spoon. Line the lid with a clean kitchen towel. Put on the lid, reduce the temperature to low and let the Estamboli Polo steam for 45 min. 

Fry the chips/fries (optional)

  1. If you want to serve skinny fries with you Estamboli Polo, you can start preparing them now. Peel and wash the remaining 2 potatoes. 

  2. Cut them into skinny fries shape (0.5cm/0.2″ thin). First cut them in slices, then into sticks.

  3. Heat 1 cup vegetable oil in a frying pan. The temperature should be hot but not too hot, so the fries are cooked through without burning on the surface.

  4. Make sure any excess moisture is removed from the fries before you transfer them into the hot oil. Let them fry gently for at least 10 minutes until golden and crispy.

  5. Remove them from the oil and lay them on a plate with a paper towel to allow the excess oil to get absorbed. Serve them quickly while they are hot and crispy.

Time to serve

  1. Your delicious Estamboli Polo is now ready to serve! Serve it with refreshing Salad Shirazitorshi (pickles) and/or creamy yogurt. Be good and don’t fight over the tahdig!  Enjoy!