How to make rice like an Iranian (2024)

The Persian method of rice making is very different and quite involved when compared with those of other rice-consuming cultures. It can seem long and intimidating, but the key virtue in the Persian culinary tradition is patience. Making good Persian food is an art. The most important point to keep in mind is that Persians don’t use any type of rice except basmati. And they definitely use a nonstick pan.

Persian rice cooking also has a few tricks that you won’t find in other rice-loving nations. There are washing, boiling, draining, and finally steaming methods to cook your rice perfectly. For example, Iranians generally cover their rice with a damkoni (a fitted fabric pot-lid cover) when steaming it to prevent the vapor from escaping. Persian rice is best served immediately right out of the pot, when it is still hot and buttery.

A couple of words you will find useful as you begin your journey into Persian rice: Berenj is a generic term for grains; chelow means cooked plain rice, but it doesn’t refer to any particular variety.

How to make rice like an Iranian (1)

How to cook rice the Persian way

Measure out the rice and place in a bowl. For every cup of water, you need half a cup of rice; here we’ll use six cups of water to three cups of rice. Wash the rice a few times until the water is clear. This is a crucial Persian technique; washing the rice removes the starch. Add two or three pinches of salt and let the rice soak for a few hours; this allows the rice to soften as it absorbs water. My grandmother strongly believed the rice should sit overnight, but my mom soaks her rice for only one or two hours before starting the epic cooking process. (I have always followed my mom’s way. I think if the rice sits overnight, it absorbs too much water and ends up being mushy.) Bring the water to a vigorous boil, then add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Place the rice in the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. Another of my mom’s essential tips is adding a cup of cold water to the pot after eight minutes of boiling. This slows down the boiling process and helps the rice elongate without becoming overcooked. It also prevents the rice from falling apart or losing its shape. Stir the rice a couple of times; after about 10 minutes, taste it. It should be soft but not mushy. Once it reaches this point, drain it in a strainer and give it a quick rinse with cold water to wash the salt away.

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How to make rice like an Iranian (2)

This is a two-part steaming process. Place the tahdeeg (see below) on the bottom of the pot (you’ll want to prepare it before the rice), then pile the rice on top in the shape of a pyramid or mountain. Dig several wells in the rice with the handle of a spatula for better steaming. Wrap the lid in a damkoni. Cover and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes, never more. While the rice steams, melt three or four tablespoons of cooking oil or butter. After the 10 minutes, reduce the heat to low and lift the lid.Pour the hot oil or butter evenly over the rice, then replace the lid firmly on the pot and cook on low for an hour.

Tahdeeg: In Farsi, deegis pot andtah means bottom—sotahdeegliterally means “bottom of the pot.” It is the golden, crunchy-crisp layer at the bottom of the pot, and it is one of the main components of any Persian meal. Every platter of rice must be served with this top-notch accessory. Iranians are seriously in love with their versions of tahdeeg, and it’s common to see them jokingly fight over is not unusual for non-Iranians to fall in love with tahdeeg as well once they’ve tried it. Many of my American friends have asked me to teach them how to make it.

Persians make several variations of tahdeeg, but the simplest and therefore the most common way of creating tasty and delicate tahdeeg is to place a thin flatbread known as lavash on the bottom of the pot with butter and splashes of brewed saffron (we use saffron thread or stigma brewed in hot water like tea). A flour tortilla is the best commonly available replacement for lavash, and very thinly sliced potatoes will also get you the crunchy texture you want.

The most glorious version of tahdeeg is also the most complicated to make. Combine a tablespoon of yogurt, an egg, and a tablespoon of brewed saffron with two spatulas of boiled rice in a bowl and gently mix with a fork until the mixture is thick and yellow. Then spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of the pot with two tablespoons of melted butter; it turns into the greatest base for the golden rice cake.

There are other less prominent but equally mouthwatering tahdeeg bases. In many parts of Iran, people use fresh leaves of Romaine lettuce as the base of herbed rice. The crunchy green base is delectable with its mountain of earthy rice. Another exquisite base for tahdeeg is grape leaves, or barge mo. It can be used for both plain and herbed rice; I personally prefer it with herbed rice.

How to make rice like an Iranian (3)

Polow: These mixed rice dishes also include tahdeeg. Since the ancient era of the Persian Empire, any time Persians cooked rice with other ingredients, particularly meat, herbs, nuts, and various spices, they called it pilaw, or, in the modern Farsi accent, polow. According to Dehkhoda Dictionary, the largest, most comprehensive Persian dictionary ever published, the first polow is known to be a combination of cooked rice, meat, lentils, raisins, and dates. That combination is still popular today and is known as adas polow (lentil rice).

These days Iranians make many types of polow. Here are some of the best-known, tastiest ones:

Sabzi polow, or herbed rice: The highly fragrant herbed rice is scented with dill, mint, and other soft herbs, along with saffron. Use tender stems and sprigs. Sabzi polow is famously served with fried fish—we use various types of saltwater white-meat fish as well as freshwater troutas the celebratory dish on the eve of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Baghali polow: This polow is mixed with fava beans and dill and served with lamb shank or chicken.

How to make rice like an Iranian (4)
How to make rice like an Iranian (5)

Zereshk polow: This polow consists of rice mixed with barberries and saffron and is most often served with pieces of cooked chicken.

Lobia polow: Sometimes referred to as green-bean rice, this is a complete meal of rice, green beans, beef, tomato paste, and fried onion. It is spiced with saffron and cinnamon.

Polow tahchin: Tahchin means “placed in the bottom of the pot,” and the ingredients of this polow are layered in the bottom of a pot. They consist of rice, chicken, orange peels, pistachios, almonds, saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon. It is very fragrant and colorful. This is the most internationally known mixed-rice dish of Persian cuisine.

How to make rice like an Iranian (2024)


How to prepare rice Iranian style? ›

Persian Style Basmati Rice With Tah-Dig (Crispy Rice)
  1. Step 1: Wash & Soak Rice. ...
  2. Step 2: Boil Water. ...
  3. Step 3: Parboil Rice. ...
  4. Step 4: Drain Parboiled Rice. ...
  5. Step 5: Prepare Saffron Rice Mixture. ...
  6. Step 6: Spread Saffron Rice Mixture. ...
  7. Step 7: Add & Shape Rice, Cook to Form Crust. ...
  8. Step 8: Add Oil Mixture.

What kind of rice do Iranians use? ›

The kind of rice used is important. My Iranian friends only use Basmati rice (affiliate) for all their Persian rice dishes, and it's what is used in this recipe. Two steps to prepare the rice for this tahdig recipe: Wash the basmati rice very well under cold running water until the water runs clear.

Why is Persian rice so good? ›

The method of double cooking and steaming the rice is a signature step in making the rice beautifully fluffy and light. It's generally served with a Persian stew such as Khoresh Bademjan which is an Eggplant stew and one of my favorites!

Do Persians wash their rice? ›

The most scrumptious, crunchy, golden crust: TADIG! To make this rice you will need a colander—and the smaller the openings, the better. You don't want your precious rice to slip out! Also, many Persian cooks wash and soak the rice as if it were dirty laundry

Where does Iran get its rice? ›

Major production is concentrated in the Caspian coastal provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan, which together produce over 75 percent of rice grown in Iran. Much of the terrain is mountainous or forested, leaving just a narrow strip for rice and other agriculture.

What is the red powder on Persian rice? ›

Sumac is derived from the dried and ground berries of the wild sumac flower and is used in Persian cooking as a seasoning for a number of dishes including kababs, rice and salads. It is a tangy spice with a sour and acidic flavour reminiscent of lemon juice.

Is Persian rice basmati or jasmine? ›

Basmati is a go-to for making a pilaf, biryani, plov, or the classic Persian dish called chelow. This variety also commonly serves as a base for curry. Jasmine rice is what shoppers usually look for when picking up ingredients for fried rice, com do (Vietnamese red rice) and hung kao mun gati (Thai coconut rice).

Why is rice expensive in Iran? ›

Additionally, restrictions on foreign rice imports have pushed up the cost of Iranian rice. Businesses are now required to purchase one kilogram of Iranian rice for every two kilograms of rice imported.

Which country has best quality rice? ›

Basmati rice, a staple food in India, has been named the 'Best Rice in the World' by Taste Atlas. India also ranks 11th on the list of '100 Best Cuisines in the World'.

Why is Persian food so healthy? ›

It comes from using the best ingredients a person can find and the cooking process, which is highly regarded and put into action. The emphasis on using the best ingredients and the meticulous cooking process are what set Persian cuisine apart.

Do Persians eat basmati rice? ›

As a Persian, Basmati rice is a staple in our diet. We have rice with every, single meal! Sometimes we have plain rice served on the side of our stews or kabobs, other times rice is the main course and we create entire meals around it. We can dress it up with beans, vegetables or ground meat.

Do Iranians eat a lot of rice? ›

Major staples of Iranian food that are usually eaten with every meal include rice, various herbs, cheese, a variety of flat breads, and some type of meat (usually poultry, beef, lamb, or fish). Stew over rice is by far the most popular dish, and the constitution of these vary by region.

What is the three-step method for cooking rice in Iranian cuisine? ›

  • Thoroughly wash the rice until the water runs clear.
  • Soak the rice in cold, salted water for at least 2 hours before beginning to cook.
  • Boil up a large pan ofwater and when boiling add a teaspoon of salt, a drop of saffron and a 1/3rd teaspoon of butter.
  • Drain the rice and add it carefully to the boiling water.
Feb 2, 2010

What is the most popular rice in Iran? ›

Tarom rice is the most well-known and widely used rice brand in Iran. This Iranian rice was initially planted and cultivated in Tarom, in the province of Zanjan, and then cultivated in the northern regions of the provinces of Mazandaran and Gilan.

Why is my tahdig not crispy? ›

If your tahdig was darker than you expected, turn the temperature down a bit next time. Turn the temperature up if the tahdig was not crispy or sufficiently golden.

What is the main ingredient in Iran national dish? ›

Chelow kabab or Chelo kabab is the national dish of Iran. The meal is simple, consisting of steamed, saffron rice and kabab, of which there are several distinct Persian varieties. This dish is served throughout Iran today, but was traditionally associated with the northern part of the country.

Why does Japanese rice need to be soaked? ›

Always soak the rice in water for 30 minutes.

Rice has been sitting in the bag dried after milling, so it needs moisture to revive the texture. You must give it enough time for the rice to absorb water so that it has a perfect texture after cooking.

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