Polo (lamb pilaf)

This version of pilaf, known as 'polo', comes from the Xinjiang region of north west China
By Fuchsia Dunlop
Polo (lamb pilaf)
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes plus soaking
  • Effort: easy



  • 400 g rice, (ideally Turkish medium-grain rice called baldo or Italian arborio or carnaroli)
  • 400 ml hot water
  • 1 pinches salt
  • 1 handfuls sultanas, (about 30g)
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 6 chump lamb chops
  • 2 carrots, cut into strips
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin

For the side-salad:

  • 1 spring onions, red or white, finely sliced
  • 1 pinches salt
  • 1 green peppers, finely sliced
  • 1 bunches coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 dashes of chilli oil, to taste
  • 1 dashes of chinese black vinegar, (such as Chinese Chinkiang vinegar), to taste


1. Cover the rice in the generously-salted hot water, and leave to soak until the water has cooled.

2. Half an hour before you start cooking, set the sultanas to soak in hot water.

3. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the lamb chops for a minute or two over a high heat until browned.

4. Add the carrots and onions, cover and fry gently until they are tender.

5. Add about 450ml water from the kettle to cover, with cumin and salt to taste, and simmer for ten minutes.

6. Scoop out any excess liquid and set it aside.

7. Drain the rice and then lay it carefully on top of the meat and vegetables, making sure it does not touch the sides of the wok.

8. Return to the boil, and then cover and cook over a very low heat for 10-15 minutes.

9. Then turn the rice so that the top layer can absorb some of the meaty juices, and drizzle the reserved liquid around the edges of the pan.

10. Bury the drained sultanas in the rice. Cover again and leave on the stove until fully cooked, about another 10 minutes.

11. While the polo is cooking, prepare the side-salad. Sprinkle the onion with salt and leave for a couple of minutes. Then scrunch it with your hands, drain well and mix with the sliced pepper and coriander. Dress with chilli oil and dark vinegar to taste.

12. When the polo is ready, mix the carrot and onion into the rice, and place in serving bowls, topping each bowlful with a couple of lamb chops and a few sultanas.

13. Serve with the side-salad and a dollop of Greek-style yoghurt.

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