This post is a tutorial for making different types of steamed Persian rice and the technique for making the delicious golden Tahdig, that is the best bottom of any pot of rice!
Rice is Polo in Farsi and it is the most important component of some Persian dishes, specifically all of the stews (khoresh) and some of the kabobs. The standard white rice can be served with almost any khoresh, though traditionally some of the khoresh (s) can be served with different types of rice. The cooking technique for all types of rice starts the same way as the white rice. Then depending on the recipe, the white rice is mixed with dried fruits, nuts, herbs or vegetables. These ingredients are added either after the steaming process is finished or at the parboiled stage of the rice, depending on the recipe.
No matter what kind of rice is made, it usually has some type of TahDig, meaning “bottom of the pot.” TahDig is a crispy, delicious treat that is a layer of either thin flat bread (Lavash) or flour tortilla, or a mixture of rice, yogurt and saffron, or thin slices of peeled potatoes arranged in the bottom of the pot. TahDig turns a beautiful golden brown color and is crispy and delicious. TahDig is thought to be the best part of the rice among Persians and Persian food lovers everywhere.
Persian steamed rice is usually made using Basmati rice that is a long grain rice. The grains hold their shape better during the steaming process and don’t stick together. This results in a fluffy steamed rice with long grains. I will be talking about the cooking technique for white rice for right now but will be sharing the recipes for other types of rice in the future posts.
The technique is the same if you want to make 2 cups of rice (I would not recommend using any less) or 6 cups of rice.
Measure the dry rice into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water and move the rice around with your fingertips in the water several times.
Drain the water and fill the bowl with fresh cold water again. Repeat this one more time until the water looks cleaner. It will never be completely clear, the cloudiness is due to the starch.
Fill a 6-Qt stockpot up to 2 inches from the top. You will need to allow room for the rice that you will be adding. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Once the water comes to a rolling boil add the ¼ cup salt and the rinsed rice. Bring it to another boil while stirring it couple of times very gently with a large slotted spoon or spatula to make sure the grains are not clumping together.
Continue to boil over medium high heat. Watch the rice carefully, it tends to foam up and overflow. You may reduce the heat only a little bit while maintaining a continuous boil.
Check one of the grains in 7-10 minutes (the time depends on the particular brand of rice), it should be soft around the edges while still firm (not crunchy) in the center
Pour the rice into a fine mesh strainer, drain all the water and rinse the rice under cold water to stop the cooking process and to wash off the excess salt.
NOTE: All the different types of steamed Persian rice have the same steps up to this point, then different ingredients are added depending on the type of rice.
To make the Lavash TahDig, heat the oils over medium high until it just starts to sizzle. Remove the pot from heat and arrange several pieces of Lavash to cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer, some overlaying is okay.
Transfer the rice carefully with a slotted spoon or spatula to the pot and cover the bread pieces and gradually decrease the area as you continue adding more rice, so once all the rice is transferred to the pot, it resembles a pyramid.
Sprinkle the very top with a dash of optional ground saffron powder for a touch of color and aroma.
Time Saving, Make-ahead Tip: You may cook the rice up to this point in the morning or several hours before you’re planning to serve it; cover the lid with damkesh and cover the pot. Heat the pot over medium low heat for 4-5 minutes, then turn the heat off. Move the damkesh-covered lid aside a little bit to leave some room for steam to escape. Leave the pot like this in room temperature, until you’re ready to serve it; at which point you will follow the instructions below to complete the steaming process. This is very convenient and I do it when I want to get the rice done and save some time later when preparing the rest of the dinner.
Cover the lid with a Damkesh or kitchen towel and steam over medium low heat for 45 minutes to one hour, or until steam rises, and the rice grains are tender through. Use a fork to carefully lift the edge of the bread a little bit; the TahDig should be ready with a light golden brown color at this point. One word of advice: Don’t get discouraged if your TahDig is not perfect the first time. Trust me all of us have been there, just keep trying until you are happy with it!!
Now you may order your handmade Damkesh! Please see the ordering info at the bottom of this page.
This is a heat diffuser that works very well for the gas range tops when making TahDig; it keeps the TahDig uniformly golden. Simply put it on the burner and place the pot over it and proceed with cooking as normal.
To make the Yogurt & Saffron TahDig, mix yogurt and a pinch of optional ground saffron powder. Stir in one cup of the cooked rice. Heat the oils in the pan, layer with yogurt mixture and top with the rest of the cooked rice and follow the directions as above.
Yogurt & Saffron TahDig under white rice
THE EQUIPMENT NEEDED:
*Nonstick stockpot (with lid) works best for making a good TahDig and you won’t have to worry about losing some of your TahDig due to sticking to the pot. Avoid expensive heavy bottomed pots with tight lids that are meant to keep the moisture in the food, such as Dutch ovens; the rice steamed in these pots will be mushy with a soft tahdig. Select the pot size according to the number of cups of dry rice that you intend to steam. For example a 3-Qt pot is the right size for 2 cups of dry rice, which serves 3-4 people, and a 6-Qt pot is the right size for steaming up to 5 cups of dry rice.
*Fine mesh sieve or colander so the cooked grains won’t pass through when you rinse the par boiled rice.
*Large kitchen towel to wrap around the lid to catch the rising steam. The other option is a damkesh that is traditionally used for this purpose.
THE INGREDIENTS FOR RICE (6-Qt nonstick stockpot)
3 cups uncooked Basmati rice (pick through carefully for any debris)
¼ cup salt (the water needs to be well salted)
About 12 cups of cold water
Optional dash of saffron, sprinkled on top of the rice
UPDATE: Sometimes I substitute 1 cup of fragrant Jasmine rice for 1 cup of Basmati in the above recipe for an added aroma.
FOR LAVASH TAHDIG (6-Qt nonstick stockpot)
Several pieces of Lavash to cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer, or one 8-inch flour tortilla cut into 6 wedges.
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP butter flavored margarine (or butter)
FOR YOGURT & SAFFRON TAHDIG (6-Qt nonstick stockpot)
½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
Dash of saffron (optional)
1 cup of the drained parboiled rice
3 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP butter flavored margarine (or butter)
INGREDIENTS AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE ADVIEH POLO – AROMATIC PERSIAN RICE:
Enough cold water to fill a 6-Qt stockpot up to 3 inches from the top
¼ cup salt
2 ½ cups uncooked Basmati rice
1 ½ tsp Persian Rice Spice blend
Pinch of optional saffron
Follow the instructions above for the white steamed rice up to where the parboiled rice is drained and rinsed. Choose the type of Tahdig you want to make and then proceed with the instructions below:
Add 1/3 of the rice and sprinkle 1/2 tsp Persian Rice Spice evenly on the rice
Then add 1/2 of the remaining rice and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp rice spice. Repeat one more time with the remaining rice and spice blend. Sprinkle the optional saffron on top. Cover the pot with a kitchen towel or Damkesh and steam for 45 minutes or an hour until steam rises and the Tahdig is golden brown.
Advieh Polo (aromatic rice)
INGREDIENTS FOR ZERESHK POLO:
Follow the above instructions for steaming the Advieh Polo (Aromatic Rice)
1 large yellow onion, diced and fried to golden brown in 3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup zereshk (barberries), pick through, wash and rinse before use
Pinch of ground saffron powder (optional)
Optional Garnish: Sliced almonds and/or pistachios
Saute the diced onions in butter until golden brown. Reduce the heat to low, add zereshk and a pinch of saffron and saute for another minute until the zereshk plumps up.
To serve the Zereshk polo, use a spatula to transfer 1/3 of the rice to the serving platter, top with 1/3 of the zereshk/fried onion mixture and continue layering and finish the top with zereshk mixture. Sprinkle with the optional sliced almonds.
INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS FOR BAGHALI POLO (Fava bean & dill rice)
2 1/2 cups Basmati Rice
1/4 cup salt
14-16 ounces of frozen or fresh fava beans (also called broad beans). Rinse the frozen fava beans under hot water to thaw.
1 cup chopped fresh dill or 1/3 cup dried dill
Follow the same steps as the white rice up to the point where the rice has boiled for 7-10 minutes and is hard in the center and soft on the two ends. Add the thawed fava beans to the boiling water with rice. Allow to come to boil then drain in a colander.
Frozen or fresh green fava beans may be used for this rice
Run warm water over frozen fava beans to thaw. For the fresh fava beans remove the pod and the outer skin of the bean and separate it in half before adding it to the boiling water with rice.
Start with the Tahdig following the above instructions for Lavash or Yogurt & Saffron Tahdig, then layer the rice and fava beans with chopped dill and top with a pinch of ground saffron for color and aroma. Proceed with the instructions for steaming the rice.
This rice is served with chicken stew but it may also be served with beef or lamb.
Lavash TahDig was used with this rice.
Crispy Potato TahDig
INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS:
1 ½ to 2 white potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin with a chips cutter
1/16 tsp ground saffron powder
1 TBSP water
3 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP butter
A light sprinkle of kosher salt
Peel and slice the white potatoes very thin. Sprinkle the top with ground saffron powder, add 1 tablespoon water, and stir to coat all the slices.
Heat the oils until sizzling. Turn the heat off. Starting from the outer edge of the pot, arrange the saffron potato slices with each slice overlapping the previous one half way. Continue until the bottom of the pot is covered. Use a rubber spatula and scrape all the saffron and water and drizzle over the potato slices. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the par cooked rice and level the top. Cover the lid with damkesh and steam over medium low for 45 minutes, or until steam rises and the potato slices are golden and crispy. Invert to a serving platter and serve.
UPDATE: DAMKESH ORDERS
In response to many requests for my handmade Damkesh, I’ve been sewing these to order, for a fee of $30.00 including shipping in the United States. The fabric is purchased per order at this time and it is 100% cotton, but the design and color will be determined based on availability.
If you’re interested in purchasing one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your order, mailing address, and your preferred email for the Paypal account.
For your convenience, I have made arrangements for payments through Paypal. Once your order has been processed, you will be getting a notification from Paypal. If you have a Paypal account you will be able to pay through that, otherwise you may “Pay as guest.”
You will receive an email with the tracking number once your damkesh has been shipped.
Homa (Persian Mama)