Rice is a staple in the Iraqi household, and no lunch is complete without it.
Therefore it is of no surprise the sheer creativity and variety Iraqis have created using this grain, from elaborate biryani, parda plau, carrot rice, and broad bean dill rice, to more simple forms like vermicelli rice and lamb fat rice. As advised by the esteemed author Nawal Nasrallah, this yellow rice is traditionally served with fish so the eater can easily pick out the thorny, fine bones typical of the native fish. Basmati rice cooks better if washed, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, and drained. Also, you can use saffron instead of the turmeric to achieve that bright yellow hue if you wanted to splurge or for a special occasion.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup vermicelli, optional
2 cups rice
3½ cups hot water
1½ teaspoons salt
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
In a medium nonstick pot over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers.
Add the turmeric and stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
If using vermicelli, add at this stage and saute until golden.
Stir in the rice, hot water, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon.
Raise the heat to high and boil the rice until visible moisture is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Lower heat to low, and simmer rice, covered, for 20 minutes.
Turn the rice gently with a wooden spoon 2 to 3 times while simmering to allow it to fluff.
Serve with cardamom and cinnamon still in the rice, for garnish, typically alongside some Iraqi fish.