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Kateh-e Estamboli (Persian Easy Cook Tomato Rice)

A simple and comforting vegetarian dish made by steaming rice layered with an aromatic tomato, onion and potato mixture. A great mid-week meal option when served with fried eggs and yoghurt.

What is Kateh-e Estamboli?

This recipe is an adaptation of the dish ‘Estamboli Polo.’ A rice dish that comes in many different iterations. Some do a vegetarian version. Others include meat. Some include green beans. Some don’t use potatoes. My version is a vegetarian version with onions, potatoes and tomatoes layered through the rice. In addition, as found in most Persian cooking, turmeric and saffron provide the rich flavour to this rice dish. I have added some extras to my version including garlic, parsley and coriander for extra flavour.

I wanted a quick version of this dish for my family. Instead of using the traditional method of cooking Estamboli Polo by draining the rice after par-boiling, I used the kateh method. Simply boiling and steaming the rice without draining the water. The resulting rice is delicious, quick and involves less washing up. Also it still creates tahdig – the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot.

How to Serve this Dish

Perfect when accompanied with a salad like Salad Shirazi, or Maast O’Khiar (Persian yoghurt, mint and cucumber dip), or torshi and/or fried eggs.

How to Store Leftovers

Make sure the rice has completely cooled down, then store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.

Kateh-e Estamboli

An easy-cook vegetarian rice with potatoes, tomatoes, onions
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Side Dish, Rice Dish, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200 g potatoes (peeled and diced into small cubes)
  • 1 medium onion (finely diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed) (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 350 g fresh tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 15 g each of fresh chopped parsley and coriander (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to season potato and tomato mixture)
  • 2 cups white long grain basmati rice (approximately 400g of rice)
  • 650 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt (for the rice)
  • 1 tbsp butter / ghee / vegetable oil


  • Gently wash rice in cold water until water runs clear. Place in a bowl and fill with cold water to 2 inches above the rice. Let the rice soak for a minimum of 30 mins (preferably overnight).
  • Take a saucepan and add 2 tbsp vegetable oil and place on a medium / high heat. Add diced potatoes and fry until they turn golden and a little crispy. Then add onions and fry until they soften and turn translucent.
  • Then add the garlic, turmeric and tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed in the mixture. Add chopped fresh tomatoes, the bloomed saffron, fresh herbs and seasoning. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Turn heat off and leave mixture until you are ready to add to rice.
  • Drain and put rice in a saucepan and add vegetable stock and 1 tsp salt (I use a standard UK 20 cm saucepan with a glass lid, 2.5 litre capacity).
  • Put the saucepan on high heat until water starts to boil. Once water comes up to the boil, turn heat to medium and add butter /ghee / oil and stir gently to mix. 
  • Once you start to see holes forming in the rice (as the water is evaporating), take the temperature down to the lowest setting. Take potato and tomato mixture and pour into the rice. Gently stir into the rice mix whilst trying to avoid breaking the rice grains.
  • Take a clean tea towel and wrap the lid of the saucepan, making sure it is not a fire hazard. Place the lid on the saucepan. The tea towel will help the steaming process and soak up the water, preventing it from falling back into the rice and making it mushy. Leave the rice cooking for 45 mins or more. The longer you leave it, the better the crispy layer that forms at the bottom of the pot (tahdig).
  • Once you have come to the end of the cooking time (45 mins or more with the lid on), turn off heat and dish up the rice on to your plates or serving dish. Plate up your tahdig as well. Serve with salad or yoghurt, and / or eggs.