What is a damkesh? The exact translation is “steam absorber” and that is exactly what it does. When the Persian rice is steaming, water collects inside the lid of the pot. That is when damkesh does its job. Instead of the collected steam dripping back into the rice and making it mushy, it is absorbed by damkesh. This is one of the secrets of successfully making a fluffy Persian rice. The best fabric for this is a medium thickness absorbent cotton material, similar to a kitchen tea towel. You can easily improvise with a no-sew variety damkesh that can be made by placing the lid of your pot in the center of a large kitchen tea towel and bringing the four corners together at the top of the lid. The reason that I have decided to share this post is because I thought maybe some of you would like to sew the traditional damkesh. I personally prefer to sew one because the snug elastic around the rim conveniently fits around the lid and prevents the damkesh from falling off. Also because I am used to seeing a damkesh atop a steaming, fragrant rice for all my life, and you know how old habits are!
You will need half a yard of a soft absorbent cotton fabric. Fold the fabric in half with the right sides facing each other. Cut an 18 x 18-inch square through the double thickness of the fabric. Save the rest of the fabric for another craft project.
Place the lid of a nonstick 6-Qt stockpot in the center of the square. Using a sewing marker pen, mark a circle 3 inches larger than the lid. Cut the marked circle through double thickness, so now you have 2 circles
Pin the edges of the two circles together, leaving about 4 inches open
Sew a seam of about ¾ inch all around except for the 4-inch opening
Turn the fabric circle inside out by pulling it through the opening
Sew very close to the outer edge, going all around the circle, skipping the opening. Then sew a second circle about 1 inch inside the first circle, but sew a complete circle this time. In order to connect the two fabrics in the middle so they don’t sag into the pot, think of the second circle as a pie that you’re going to cut into 6 equal wedges. Sew 3 (X)s across the second circle having all the (X)s share a point right in the center of the circle.
Using a bodkin, grab the end of a narrow elastic and pull it through the opening.
Place the lid of your stockpot over the fabric and pull on both ends of the elastic to make a snug fit around the lid. Tie two secure knots with the two ends of the elastic. Leave 1 inch extra at each end and cut the elastic. Push the knot inside the opening and sew shot the 4-inch opening by hand. Now you have a damkesh.
NOTE: You will also need a fine mesh colander or sieve similar to this one, with holes too small for the grains of boiled rice to pass through when you rinse it. I found this in an Asian supermarket.