April 11, 2007

Vegan Kalam Polow

We switched to brown basmati rice a few months back as it was a healthier choice for us. But kept wondering, how will it taste with rasam or sambar? Will we miss the taste and aroma of white rice? How will pulao taste, or vangi bhath for that matter. Each time we concluded that we liked the taste. So it was time to take the next step, making biryani.

Whether it is falafel with hummus, tahini and baba ganouj dip, chicken sahwarma or kebabs, I enjoy all of them. But I was ready to experiment, so I set my foodie radar working. I looked around for one recipe which captures all the elements of Middle Eastern cooking. Then I came across Kalam Polow (or Polo) or we can say Persian biryani.

Rice that is cooked (parboiled) after soaking is called Chelow. A close relative is Polow where the rice is cooked with layers of meat, vegetables, herbs and steamed together, much like our biryani. More information here.

Kalam Polow is traditionally made with ground meat which I substituted with Tofu. I also tweaked the recipe by adding fresh chopped cilantro to the shredded cabbage. I also reduced the oil to about 31/2 tablespoon. Here is how I made it.

21/2 cups Basmati rice
1/2 package extra firm tofu - small cubes
2 cups white cabbage - shredded
1 medium onion - sliced in half moons
2-3 tomatoes chopped thinly or 1 tbspoon tomato paste
1 tspoon cinnamon and cloves powder
31/2 cup olive oil
few strands saffron
1 tbspoon lime juice
salt and pepper to taste.

Soak the rice for about an hour and then cook it till it is al-dente or just short of tender.

Heat about 11/2 tspoon oil in a pan and fry the onions till it starts turning brown. Add tofu and cook it tofu starts turning golden. Add about 1/4 cup water, clove and cinnamom powder, 1/2 of the saffron strands (soak them in water first), tomatoes, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cook it for another 2-3 minutes till everything mixes well together.

Add 1 tspoon oil in a pan and add the cabbage. Cook it for 5-6 minutes till it starts turning golden and tender. Add salt and pepper and cook for another min on low. Add chopped cilantro and set it aside.

Now bring 1/4 cup water and 1 tbspoon oil to a boil. Then add layers of rice alternating it with cabbage and Tofu. I did rice-tofu-rice-cabbage-rice-tofu-rice. The top layer should be rice and it is usually arranged so that it builds up to a dome shape.

Heat another 1/4 cup water and 1 tbspoon oil and pour it over the rice. Close the lid tightly and cook it on low heat for 30-40 min.

In the meantime, mix about 2 tbspoon rice with the rest of the saffron water and keep it aside for garnishing.

For serving, toss the rice gently together and serve garnished with saffron rice. We had ours with fresh yogurt and crispy fish. Our middle of the week treat!

This is my entry for Monthly Mingle # 9 Arabian Nights hosted by lovely Meeta at What's for Lunch, Honey?


  1. Coffee1:11 AM

    That looks so much like our biryani!!!!!! Nice and healthy one there!! :)

  2. this is different...looks very healthy. I do like brown basmati rice...that chewy,nutty texture is something I have got so used to...


  3. Brown Basmati? Didn't know that.Thanks for that info.

    Biryani looks great.Do Arabs use Tofu?Well..it's definitely healthy though ,enjoy:)

  4. Brown basmati ? Where do you get it Mandira ?

    Looks delightful

  5. Mandira, this looks soo good. A lot of flavor and aromas perfect!

  6. I love the way that looks! It's exactly the kind of dish that we would eat again and again. Thanks!

  7. Thanks Coffee, it does look like biryani, but tastes different.

    Trupti - thanks, I agree. I like the taste of brown basmati rice, it tastes great and is healthy too!

    Asha - thanks dear. For the vegetarian without tofu you can add beans to the mix. Like I said, traditionally it is made with ground meat.

    Sandeepa - thanks. I buy the brown basmati from the Indian store. I get a bigger back there. However, it is also available in supermarkets, but is more expensive.

    Meeta - We really enjoyed the special treat. I know I'm going to keep experimenting with it.

    Sher- we've barely finished it and I am already thinking about the next combination that I'll try :)

  8. When is the round up? I am tooo excited !!!

    Btw, could you correct the link which links to the First GBP announcement on my blog on your Winter announcement post, please? Sorry for that wrong link, it happened due to the blogger beta problems....

  9. beautiful delicately spiced dish.

  10. Mandira, I love brown basmati rice...that's a very nice dish you've got there...

  11. Mandira, thanks for stopping by my blog. You are welcome to return and linger as long as you like :).

    Tell me something, it's only recently that I became aware of brown Basmati (we only get the white here). Is the flavour the same with the brown?

  12. Hi Mandira, polow is new to me and looks delicious! I bought brown basmati rice too but have only used it a couple of times. Glad to know it's just as good in many dishes, now I won't be so worried to try. Thanks for sharing this :)

  13. Mandira, Vegan Kalam Polow looks very delicious. We try to have brown rice often but have never tried any pulav or Briyani.

  14. Inji, the round up will be on Tuesday April 17, 2007 as you had requested. I will post the correct link to the first round up too. Stay tuned :)

    Thanks Bee, we enjoyed it.

    Thanks Sunita, do try when you get a chance. It's delicious.

    Cynthia, you hav a beautiful blog, I'm sure to visit it again. :)Welcome to ahaar. Brown Basmati rice has a nutty taste and is a little chewy when compared to white rice texture, but we like it and is regular at our table.

    Thanks Linda, when we started using brown rice, we did that one step at a time. Once we were used to the taste, we tried making different recipes with it and it has been a hit so far.

    ISG - thanks. We've grown accustomed to the taste and texture of brown rice. It's a regular at our place now.

  15. the polow looks so good with those tofus. nice substitution. I think I can use paneer. colourful rice.

  16. Sharmi - thanks. You can even use paneer, or chicken, turkey. Do try and let me know how it turns out.


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