Carrot Mixed Rice, Havij Polow, with Fried Chicken for Yalda Night

From the sunset in the last day of autumn (Dec 20th) till sunrise in the first day of winter (Dec 21st) we have practically the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. And from then on, very gradually, days get longer until we hit the summer solstice six months later

Iranians mark “the longest and darkest night of the year” as Yalda, and have special rituals for it as they often do with other major celestial moments, namely Norooz, Persian New year on Spring Equinox and Mehregan, Persian Thanksgiving Festival around Fall Equinox

Yalda means the birth of sun or “mehr”, pointing to the start of longer days ahead. Yalda which is alsocalled chelleh, was honored by ancient Persians whose livelihood centered around cultivation. It is said that in ancient times during Avesta, the birth of “mehr” marked the beginning of the new year

Yada is celebrated by Iranians as well as many people of Indo-Iranian origin in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey with friends and family in form of a cozy “food- tale party” around a colorful table or spread or korsi topped with colorful fruits and sweets. Korsi, by the way, is an ancient Persian tradition whereby a source of heat usually charcoal burner is placed under a medium size table and the table itself is covered with a large quilt. Lots of big comfy pillows, many rounds of teas, and very cold weather are all essential parts of the korsi setting!  Back to Yalda, depending on the region and city, the items on the table as well as the activities around it vary. However, there are a few constants cross regionally: Watermelon, seeded pomegranate, and dried-fruit-seeds-nuts mix (ajil) are very common food items (in shiraz, dates halva is customary; also, while generally there is no specific main dish associated with Yalda festivity, in Northern province of Gillan white fish is served on Yalda night

As for what people do to spend the “longest and darkest night of the year” besides nibbling at the delicious foods and fruits and nuts: Again, regional, less known practices aside, people usually listen to an older, wiser, more literati member of the family recite poetry from our great many poets or they make a wish and ask him or her to seek the advice from the oracle of Shiraz by randomly selecting one of the poet’s first few lines – Fal-e Hafez. Or they simply pass the night telling tales, listening to music, dancing to it and definitely trying to have loads of fun, no matter what form it might take

I just loved the concept of Yalda and so cherish the hope and optimism embedded in it  I mean, the
beginning of the winter is supposed to be feeling very cold and depressing, isn’t it!? Yet, the occasion cheerfully holds a shiny piece of sun for you in the midst of the bleak winter; it literally makes you look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Owing to my Yalda tradition, I look forward to this time of the year and to this night knowing in my heart of hearts that although January and February and the brutal Montreal’s cold and miserable deep snow is still ahead, at least from now on each passing day will bring a bit more sun-ray, and a bit longer day

As mentioned above, there is not really a particular main menu item for Yalda night. Yet for this year’s Yalda round up with Persian Food Bloggers I felt introducing something  in color of fire and sun and warmth, orange and red that is 🙂 and also something a bit sweet. So I went with Persian carrot rice, havij polow,  with fried Chicken. For the list of other delicious foods for this occasion, please scroll down to the end of this post.  #PersianFoodBloggers #PFBShabehYalda

  • Ingredient Serves 2-3
  • (For rice mix (polow)
  • 2 Cups Basmati Rice
  • 3 medium stalks of carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron powder dissolved in half cup of lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp. sliced pistachio
  • 2 tbsp. and 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil 
  • For Chicken
  • 4-5 pieces Chicken breast and/or thighs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Salt, black pepper, as needed.


In preparation

  1.   Wash and rinse the rice with cold water several times until water runs clear. Soak rice with 1 tbsp. salt for at least one hour
  2.  Dissolve saffron in warm water and set aside for 1 hr
  3.  Wash and dry chicken pieces

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a medium pot. Use it to sauté onion until translucent. Fry chicken pieces on both sides until they
change color. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric and fry two more minutes. Add one glass of warm water and rosemary and cook until tender

Slice carrots in small pieces, as shown in the picture; I do not recommend grating them. Here is what I did: After washing and skinning them, I chopped off the heads and tails using a cupboard and sharp knife. Then I cut each carrot lengthwise into several flat thin pieces. Then I held my Knife diagonally to cut into each piece and produce tiny slices, while doing more cutting and size adjusting as I went along

Now. After the slicing is done to your satisfaction, in a non-stick frying pan heat ½ tbsp. oil and fry sliced carrots for 3-4 minutes until they are tender. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 tbsp. of the dissolved saffron. Stir well and set aside

Fill a large pot three quarter full with cold water and 1 tbsp. salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Pour off the water from the top of the rice bowl and add the rice to the boiling water. Let the rice boil until the grains are cooked at the core but not too soft. You should try it several times to make sure it is the right moment by taking a grain and biting on it

Drain the rice in a fine-meshed sieve. After a minute or two, transfer the rice in to a large bowl. Add fried carrots, along with whatever oil and saffron mix is left in the frying pan, in the bowl and gently yet thoroughly mix it with the rice. You will notice the rice changes in color a little. No need to wash the frying pan yet; we need it soon

Wash and completely dry your big non-stick pan. Heat 1 tbsp. veg. oil and lay the cooked chickens at the bottom of the top.  Top it with the rice-carrots mixture to forma pyramid shape. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a hole in the center

Add the remaining of diluted saffron + 1 tbsp. oil from the cooked chicken if you have any left. Cover and cook over medium for a few minutes or until you get plenty of steam inside the pot. Warp the lid in a clean kitchen towel, tightly cover reduce the heat to low and cook for 40 minutes

Just before serving, get your frying pan back on the stove and briefly sauté sliced pistachios

Spoon out the rice mix in a serving platter. Arrange bottom of the pot chickens around the platter and garnish with sliced pistachio.

!Have a Wonderful Yalda Night


More Yalda-related posts by Perain Food Bloggers

Family Spice Pomegranate Mulled Wine for my Shab-e Yalda

Persian Mama
Persian Mama
Sholeh ZardPersian Saffron Rice Pudding

8 Comments on “Carrot Mixed Rice, Havij Polow, with Fried Chicken for Yalda Night”

  1. I could totally smell everything from this beautiful dish! Just lovely! Happy Holidays!

  2. A beautiful story of Yalda and explained to perfection! I love Havij Polo and yours is so beautiful garnished with pistachios.
    Happy Yalda, dear Afsaneh! 🙂

    • Afsaneh says:

      Fae joon, tell you the truth garnishing it with pistachios was my own invention I just felt it would make it more inviting and it did without changing the taste too much.
      You are very kind to to say so anyway; I wish you lots of happiness in the coming year azizam. lots of love.

  3. Your rice looks so gorgeous and delicious!

  4. Such a beautiful dish Afsaneh joon! This is one of those meals that would make everyone ask for the recipe! Wish you a lovely Yalda 🙂 (p.s. I have the exact frying pan as you do! 😆 )

  5. Bita says:

    Afsaneh joon, this looks so delicious! I’m craving it for dinner! Hope you had a lovely Yalda and Happy New Year! ❤

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