Last week before we took off to go to Seattle for our friend’s graduation I decided to make Baghali Polow, rice with fava beans and dill, because I had a sudden craving for it, but also because someone in the comments has asked about it. But then I realized something of grave importance. I have neglected to post about one of the key elements in Persian cooking: how to make Persian rice.
For anyone who has ever had Persian food, you know that the method in which the rice is made is very different than what you are used to, ya know, the basic 2 cups of water to one cup of rice, cook for 50 minutes or what not. Well that’s not how Persians roll when it comes to rice making. You read it right, rice making is a PROCESS. Most importantly, you can’t use any type of rice your little heart desires, you must use basmati rice.
It has taken me many tries in order to get it right. Not to say that it is awfully difficult, it is not, but you have to be shown how to make it right and know how long to cook the rice for. I have concluded that making Persian rice is an art.
So here is the way that I usually make stove top rice. Please make sure you make this type of rice in a non-stick pan.
*Important note for measuring purposes*
Please note that this recipe is good for two people. I only made this recipe for tutorial purposes. The amount of rice obviously varies depending on how many people you are cooking for. Additionally, measuring rice is different depending on whether a standard measuring cup is used verses the measuring cup that comes with rice cookers (Persian or non). A rice cooker measuring cup is equivalent to 3/4 of a standard measuring cup. I usually use the rice cooker measuring cup when cooking rice, and usually allocate about one cup per person.
2 cups of basmati rice (the equivalent in standard measuring cup is 1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp of yogurt
1 pinch of saffron
1 pinch of sugar
Canola or vegetable oil
Alrighty, let’s get started!
Measure out your rice and place in a bowl. Note the measuring cup in the above picture came with my Persian rice cooker and it is the one that I always use for measuring rice.
Wash rice a few times until the water looks clear. This is a very important step in cooking Persian rice. Essentially, what you are doing is removing the starch from the rice. I know someone (read: The Sous Chef) who always neglects to do this step. It is such an insult to our rice, I tell ya! The first time he told me that he made rice without washing it, I nearly spitted the rice out. Fortunately for him, we had guests, and I had to keep my horror and disappointment under wraps. But dip down inside I wanted to yell and scream profanities.
Add some salt and let the rice soak for a few hours. It is generally strongly believed that rice should rest over night for best results. Now, let me tell you, the world will not come to an end if you don’t soak your rice. If it did, then we would not be here, courtesy of yours truly.
When you are ready to cook bring 6 cups of water to a boil. I don’t like to take chances so my rule of thumb is 3 cups of water per cup of rice. You will be amazed how the rice soaks up the water.
In the mean time in a mortar add sugar and saffron and grind until saffron turns into a powder.
Once your water starts boiling, take 2 tbsp of the hot water and add it to the saffron and sugar powder. Then salt the boiling water.
Think of this part of the process as cooking pasta. You salt the water, add the pasta, cook until done, and then drain. We do the same thing here: place the rice in the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. This is the first crucial moment of rice cooking. Make sure that you stir the rice a couple of times from bottom up during the cooking time. Once the 10 minutes are close taste your rice. It should be soft, not hard or mushy. It should be longer than it was before it went into the pot, but it should not be moments from falling apart.
While your rice cooks, place yogurt in a mixing bowl, add saffron water to it and mix well. Please note that it is best to not use yogurt that it is too sour for this recipe.
Once your rice is ready drain in a colander and give a quick rinse with cold water to stop additional cooking.
Add about 4 to 5 tablespoons of rice to the yogurt mixture.
Mix well together.
Add a very thin layer of water to the bottom of the pot. Essentially, what you are looking for is a thin layer that covers the whole bottom of the pot. Add oil, I would say for this recipe 1 tbsp, more if you are using a bigger pot. Give it all a shake so that the water and oil get a little mixed up. This my friends, it is the first step in making Tahdig.
Cover the bottom of the pan with rice mixed with yogurt. You ask why we add yogurt and saffron? Because it makes really yummy Tahdig! Pile up the rest of the rice on top in the shape of a pyramid.
With the back of your spatula make 4-5 holes, making sure that you don’t go through the rice and yogurt mix. This is done for steaming purposes.
Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes, NO MORE THAN 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes place a towel over the lid of the pot, cover, and cook on medium low for 1 hour. At this point you are steaming your rice.
There are two ways to serve Persian rice. Here is the first way (my favorite way): Place your serving dish on top of the pot.
Flip the pot while holding the dish against it firmly.
Remove the pot and voila’! Look at the fabulous color of that Tahdig. Yummy!
The second way of serving Persian rice is by plating the rice in a platter, then remove the tahdig and cut it in small pieces and placing it in dish. Usually when people plate the rice this way they will place some rice mixed with saffron on top for decoration purposes. This is really simple to do. Here is how you would do it.
Instead of adding all of the saffron water to the yogurt, reserve about 1 tsp of it. Add a couple of spoons of rice and mix well. Place the mixture on top of the rest of the rice. Then proceed with the cooking process.
Once your rice is ready, remove the rice with saffron from the top of the pot and place in a bowl.
Plate the rest of the rice and then place the saffron rice on top.