Orange Rind Rice

Narenj Palaw


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


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By Durkhanai Ayubi

Published 2020

  • About

A delicate and fragrant rice dish topped with a mix of candied citrus peel and nuts, narenj palaw is popular in Afghan cuisine. Like kabuli palaw, it was often reserved for special occasions because of the delicacy of the ingredients and the time taken to prepare them.

In Afghanistan, the citrus peel comes from a fruit called narenj, which is a cross between an orange and a lemon, and more widely known as bitter orange. In Australia, where narenj isn’t available, it can be substituted with the peel from any orange variety. The peel is blanched to extract any bitterness, and then soaked in syrup with the nuts to create a tangy, sweet and aesthetically beautiful topping for the palaw.


  • Palaw rice
  • 3 large navel or other oranges
  • 330 g ( cups) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon slivered pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds


To prepare the palaw rice base for this dish, follow the recipe for kabuli palaw. Using a small sharp knife, cut the peel from the oranges in long strips and slice off any white pith. Layer two or three strips of rind on a cutting board and slice them on the bias into thin strips. Repeat until all the peel is cut.

To remove any bitterness in the rind, bring 1 litre (4 cups) cold water, ½ teaspoon salt and the rind to the boil in a small saucepan. Add the rind and blanch by boiling for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander. Rinse under cold running water, drain again and return the rind to the saucepan with another litre of cold water and ½ teaspoon salt. Repeat the blanching process three more times, and set the rind aside.

In a small saucepan, stir the sugar into 375 ml ( cups) water until dissolved. Place the saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring for 6–8 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 100°C (200°F) on a sugar thermometer and the syrup thickens slightly. Add the orange rind to the syrup and boil for 5 minutes, or until it is translucent and sweet. Add the pistachios and almonds, and stir gently to combine. Store the topping in the syrup until you’re ready to use it.

To serve, gently layer the rice and lamb pieces into the centre of a large platter using a kafgeer, or large flat slotted spoon, creating a heap. Drain the narenj topping, discarding the syrup, and liberally spread over the rice to serve.