Baghali Polo is a Persian rice dish that features lima beans and dill layered with fried onions and Basmati. It is crowned by the prized “tah deeg” or “bottom of the pot”, which is the crispy layer of potato or rice that forms as the dish cooks. Our friend Farzad is a master of polo, and he taught me the procedure.
Here’s his family recipe, which makes about 8-10servings.
2 cups Basmati Rice
1 tablespoon salt plus more for seasoning
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
2 -3 potatoes, sliced thinly
2 onions, chopped
1 20 oz bag frozen lima beans, thawed
1 bunch dill, chopped
1. Rinse rice thoroughly, and place in large pan with 10 cups water. Add salt to water, heat to boil, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. When rice becomes fragrant, check a grain: squash it in your finger. If it breaks into 4 pieces it is ready. Alternative test, taste it; it should be al dente with just a tiny bite in the center of the grain. When rice is done, drain it thoroughly in colander.
2. While rice cooks, chop onions and brown in oil in skillet over medium high heat.
3. Slice potatoes. Generously coat the bottom of a large, heavy pot with oil and place the potatoes in a single layer in the oil covering the entire bottom surface. Season with salt and pepper.
4, Assemble the dish: heap a layer of rice, then lima beans, then onions, then dill, then rice, forming a mound in the pot, and repeat until all ingredients are used.
5. Wrap the pot lid in a kitchen towel, cover, and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. The towel absorbs the moisture, which prevents the rice from getting mushy.
6. When the dish is done, spoon out the rice mixture and scrape the crispy potatoes out onto the top of the dish. This is great with pretty much anything; we had it with a yogurt marinated, grilled salmon last week, but it’s equally divine with lamb, chicken, or beef. My daughter had the leftovers for breakfast two days running!
There are endless variations of polo–I’ve tried it with raisins and almonds instead of the lima beans and dill, and i’ve also had it with dried pomegranates. It definitely takes a few extra steps and dirties a few extra pots, but the uniqueness and variety make it worth the trouble if time permits.