A while back one of the readers requested Kalam Polow, rice with cabbage.  This type of rice is not something that I grew up eating because neither my grandmother or my mom made it.  Actually, neither one of them ever made anything with cabbage.  Truth be told when I was introduced to cabbage I simply didn’t care for it because of the smell. I have to give credit to my Korean friend Jackie who gradually helped me like cabbage.  In fact about ten years ago she introduced me to her beloved Kimchi. Oh my! My nose couldn’t handle the smell of the fermented cabbage and garlic let alone my taste buds. But alas, there was a transition at some point and I have grown to like Kimchi, a lot.

I was talking to my mom last week and asked her if she knew a recipe for Kalam polow and sure enough she said she didn’t because it’s not something that she makes. My dilemma was that I had only had Kalam polow twice before. Once about 20 years ago and once last year. If memories serves me correctly, the first time the polow was simply made with rice, cabbage and meatballs. However, the version that I had last year had tomato in it. My mom enlightened me that folks from Shiraz make Kalam Polow often.

I immediately emailed my Shirazi cousins Firouzeh, Nilou, and Nastaran who enjoy cooking to ask them for the recipe. SCORE!!! Both Firouzeh and Nastaran sent over their recipes and I went to work.  I had to do a little experimenting because in true Persian style I only was given a list of ingredients. Much to my surprise the Shirazi version of this rice has herbs in it, specifically, it has Persian basil which to the best of my knowledge is never used in other types of polow! The end result was simply delicious!

This is the first recipe for Kalam Polow, I will make the other two types as well and posted in the future as well.


3 cups rice
6 cups of shredded cabbage
1 onion
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups fresh parsley, packed
2 cups fresh cilantro, packed
2 cups chives
2 cups Persian basil
1/2 cup tarragon
1 cup fresh dill (or 3 tbsp dry dill)
2 tbsp dried summer savory
salt & pepper

First grate onion and add to ground beef. Season with salt and pepper and make small meatballs about the size of hazelnuts.

Cook meatballs. You will probably have to do this in two batches. I didn’t add any oil to my pan because the ground beef was a bit more fatty than I like it to be. I warmed up my pan until it was super hot then added the meatballs. I kept an eye on them and shook the pan about two minutes later. I kept shaking the pan every minute until the fat melted and the juices came out. It worked out perfectly.

In the mean time shred your cabbage.

Add a bit of oil to a pan and saute cabbage until cooked. Season with salt and pepper and add turmeric. The cabbage needs to be done in batches as there is quite a bit of it.

Chop herbs. Season with salt and mix together.

Make rice according to Cooking Rice for Polow post.

Once your rice has been parboiled built layers in a non-stick pot by adding 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Shake pot to mix them together and add a thin layer of rice. Then add a 1/3 of herbs and 1/3 of cabbage. Cover with another layer of rice.

Repeat layering with herbs but this time add all of the meatballs and then the cabbage on top. Do one more layer of rice, herbs, and cabbage. Finish off with a layer of white rice. With the back of a spatula make 5 holes in the rice making sure not to touch the bottom of the pot.

Cover and cook rice on high for 10 minutes.  Mix 1 tablespoon of canola oil with 2 tablespoons of water and pour over rice. Alternatively, you can also simply cut 2 tablespoons of butter into several pieces and put it on top of the rice.  Place a towel over the lid and cook on low for 1 hour.

Thanks Firouzeh and Nastaran for this awesome recipe! I can’t wait to make it again because I liked it THAT much!!