I have been trying to make perfect Persian Rice for a long time and I just couldn't seem to get it quite the way that I wanted it. For those of you who are not familiar with this way of cooking rice, you end up with a wonderful buttery golden crust called Tahdig, which is crisp, crunchy and wonderful! I decided to stop trying so many different recipes and go and ask my Persian friend. She told me how to do it step-by-step. And last night, I finally got it right.
So here's the secrets to making Persian Rice: it's important to use Basmati Rice and you treat it like pasta, cooking it al dente and then steaming it long and slow with butter so that wonderful golden crust develops. You also add Saffron as it perfumes the rice with it's special fragrance and taste. It's actually quite simple to make this rice and I realized the trick is in what kind of pot to use to make that wonderful crust. I used a cast iron pot and made a lid out of a cast iron frying pan sealed with a kitchen towel. It is important to both soak and boil the rice so the grains stay separate and fluffy.
It's a wonderful side dish to so many other Middle Eastern dishes and everyone will be fighting over the Tahdig so make a lot. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
2 cups Basmati Rice
Water for soaking
9 cups Water
2 Tablespoons Salt
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter Divided
Pinch of Saffron
1/4 cup boiling water
Soak Basmati Rice in a Bowl with water to cover for 1 hour or longer (the longer you soak it, the less time it takes to cook). Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and rinse lightly. Then bring the cooking water and salt to a boil in a pot on high heat. Add the rice and return to a boil. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until the rice is al dente. There should be just a little firmness at the center. Drain the rice.
Put 2 Tablespoons of Butter in the bottom of a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan. Put the skillet on medium low heat. Spoon the rice over the bottom of the pan and around until all the rice is piled in. Form into a mounded shape and open a hole in the center almost all the way to the bottom. Pour the Saffron water around and into the hole. Then take the remaining melted butter and drizzle over the rice. Place a clean kitchen towel across the top of the pot and put the lid on. Pull the ends of the towel up over the pot. Steam for 30 - 35 minutes. Smell the rice for the last 5 minutes to make sure the rice doesn't start burning.
To serve, use a spatula to separate the crispy rice from the pot. Then, put a plate over the rice and turn over carefully (using Oven mitts). Or, you can remove the top part of the rice to a plate and then remove the Tahdig and place on top.
Five Element Analysis
Rice belongs to the Metal Element and so does Butter and Saffron, so this is a very Metallic side dish. Saffron also has some wonderful medicinal properties according to Chinese Medicine. It invigorates the blood and releases toxins and heat. Because the rice is boiled and steamed, it has been cooked in a Water Way and the salt increases the Water. And, the crispy crust gives it a bit of a Fiery component. It is a very good side for dishes with sauce and I like to serve it with other Middle Eastern foods containing Lamb - a Fire food or Chicken - a Wood Food, Eggplant - a Water Food, Tomatoes - a Fire Food and Cucumbers, an Earth Food.