Halebibi – Persian Rice Pilaf

Halebibi is one of my childhood Shabbat dishes. I remember eating Halebibi at my Iranian grandparents’ house, when we visited them on Shabbat. Unlike other Jewish ethnic groups, Iranian Jews in Israel have a wide repertoire of Shabbat dishes, so we never knew what we would get to eat at my grandparents’ house. Not that it really mattered, because we loved it all. Halebibi, however, was one of the kids favorite Shabbat dishes, because in comparison to the rich flavored and sophisticated Persian dishes, Halebibi was simple and comforting.

The recipe below is very similar to the one my Naneh (grandmother in Persian) used to make, only it has some more complexity of the flavor added by the coriander seeds and the sour grape juice (found in Middle Eastern stores). I prefer this version over my grandma’s, but if you like mild flavors, you may omit the coriander and use water instead of the sour grape juice.

2 cups rice
1 ½ lb chicken drumsticks
3 cups water and 11/2 cups sour grape juice (or 4 ½ cups water)
1 tablespoon chicken soup powder
1 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup oil
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
2 onions, sliced

Place the rice in a bowl and cover it with hot water. Mix the rice and discard of the water. Repeat the process two more times. Transfer the rice to a strainer, and rinse under running water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 ½ cups water with the soup powder. Add the chicken and bring to a boil. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add to the pot 1 ½ cups of sour grape juice (or water) and the rice, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until all liquids are absorbed in the rice, about 30 minutes.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and sauté the coriander seeds for 2 minutes. Add the onion and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the cooked rice, the remaining ½ cup water, and the chicken, and cook covered, over low heat, for 50 minutes.

Plate the rice on a serving platter and place the chicken pieces on top. Serve hot and enjoy!

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