Rice is a significant edible grain among the Iranian. There is not exact information regarding the history of rice consumption in Iran. Some historical sources mentioned that rice is an imported cargo from China. Many of the sailors and orientalists who were in Iran during 18th to 20th centuries pointed out that rice is an important agricultural product in Iran, especially in Gilan and Mazandaran provinces and named Polow and Chelow as national foods of Iran.
In culinary culture of Iran, there are two terms regarding the cooking of rice namely “Polow” and “Chelow”:
Chelow: a plain rice in which no other ingredient is added, it is served along with stew or kebab e. g. Chelow Fesenjan (a stew made of pomegranate paste and walnut) and Chelow Kebab.
Polow: it is a kind of cooked rice mixed with herbs, fruits and nut, beans and so on. The prepared rice is named based on what has been added in it, for example Sabzi Polow (herb and rice), Reshteh Polow (Iranian noodle and rice) and Adas Polow (lentil and rice).
Different kinds of Iranian Polow are classified as below:
- Polow mixed with beans like Adas Polow (lentil and rice), Mash Polow (mung bean and rice) and Loobia Polow (green bean and rice).
- Polow mixed with herbs like Nokhod Polow (green pea and rice), Havij Polow (carrot and rice), Sib Polow (potato and rice) and Kalam Polow (cabbage and rice).
- Polow mixed with fruits and nuts like Keshmesh Polow (raisins and rice), Albaloo Polow (sour cherries and rice), Ajil Polow (nuts and rice) and Morasa Polow (jeweled rice).
- Polow mixed with other ingredients like Reshteh Polow (Persian noodle and rice).
Sometime, the ingredients like cooked and chopped meat and chicken are added to these foods. Also, in some cases the raw meat or chicken is put between the layers of the rice to be cooked with steam.
The main characteristic of Iranian Polow is to cook a fluffy rice with the rice grains separated and not sticky.