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Iranian rice, and Afghani caramelized rice

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I recently had some plain rice at an Iranian restaurant, and it was the lightest, fluffiest rice I've ever had. I know it was Basmati rice, but beyond that...??? Anyone have a recipe, or a URL that might have the recipe?

Also, I've had some rice in an Afghan restaurant that was described onthe menu as caramelized. It's apparently also Basmati rice, that's somehow been caramelized, or at least, browned. It was also light and fluffy, and very tasty. Again, I'm looking for a recipe.

TIA to all who respond.

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  1. And while we're on the subject, what about that rice in Persian restaurants that's mostly white but is "garnished" with a portion of rice that's bright yellow? Surely the yellow color does not come from saffron? What makes it yellow? Is it prepared separately?

    And what's with the nomenclature "Persian"? Why not "Iranian"??

    3 Replies
    1. re: Dorothy

      Persians are the largest ethnic group in Iran. There are a number of other ethnic minorities: Azeris and Turkish speakers in the north, Kurds, Baluchis in the south, etc etc.

      1. re: Dorothy

        It is saffron! Iran is one of the largest users and producers of high quality saffron.

        1. re: Dorothy

          You get the few yellow grains by drizzling some powered saffron dissolved in liquid over th rice and letting it be absorbed. this way only the rice that comes in direct contact with the saffron is colored.

        2. Your thread title is poetry.

          1 Reply
          1. re: 2chez mike

            Your thread title is ALMOST poetry.

          2. ThE "secret" to fluffy rice, be it jasmime, basmati, carolina, rissoto, is rinsing it twice before you cook it.

            Once again, I don't believe I'm giving up my secrets.

            1 Reply
            1. re: 2chez mike

              I believe you did have Indian basmati rice.

              The Persians take particular care in their rice. Persian grown rice is a wonder. Much better than Indian. One variety, (among many), is Sadri- (SP?), rice.

              Yes the browned rice at the bottom of the rice pot. What I have seen is Persians will put a towel, to absorb moisture, under the lid, this is done toward the end of cooking the rice.

              Also I’ve had a raw egg yoke on the rice added.

              Frank

            2. The "caramelized" style rice you're talking about is both Afghani and Persian. It's called tadig, or tadigi.

              First you parboil the rice for 5 minutes (use Basmati, soak it in salted water, and rinse thoroughly).

              Drain it after boiling. In a heavy pot (I use a Le Creuset), put plenty of oil (not EVOO), some threads of saffron which you have dissolved in a little bit of hot water or you can use a little bit of stock.

              Put your rice in the pot, and mound it in a pyramid shape. Try to use a pot big enough to allow this. Dribble some oil with saffron in it all over the rice, and throw a few whole cardamon pods on top.

              Then put a dish towel over the pot, and then put your heavy lid on it. Turn the flame way, way down - and leave the rice there for a long, long time. The result is heavenly. You'll scoop out the rice until you get to the solid part, which should be about a 1/2 thick if you used enough oil. If all goes well, you should be able to flip the pot over and get this gorgeous brown amber round crusty thing, which you then cut like a pie and serve. If it doesn't come out easily, get a spatula under there. If all else fails, cut it into the pie sections in the pot and use a spatula that way.

              If you do a google search and put in "persian, rice, saffron," etc - you'll get plenty of information.

              1. This is how my Persian husband and his family prepare this type of rice (chelow) with a crust. You'll need:

                Rice from Iran or Basmati rice
                Butter
                Saffron
                Salt
                A heavy pot with a tight fitting lid - Le Creuset dutch ovens are ideal
                A wooden spoon with a long thin round handle
                A tea towel

                First, rinse basmati rice until water runs clear and soak for at least 30 min. Drain into a wire mesh strainer and rinse again. 2 cups is a reasonable amount for 4-6 people, keeping in mind that Persians like to see a generous portion of rice for guests and might make much more.

                Meanwhile, soak some saffron in a little boiling water, maybe 30ml. I've seen my mother-in-law use half a gram: saffron is cheaper there and they like its flavour strong, even adding it to tea... Soak as much as you can, because the aroma is important to the finished dish. The water should turn ruby red. You can store leftover saffron water in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days or use it in other dishes to go with the rice.

                Boil lots of salted water, say 5qt for 2 cups soaked rice. Add the soaked rice and parboil until rice is partially cooked but still firm. Strain and set aside to drain.

                To get the crust (tahdig):

                Start with butter. Unless you are keeping kosher or have health concerns, there will be NO oil of any type in this rice. (Margarine is too vile to be mentioned in this context.)

                All the Muslim women I saw making this rice in Iran used butter, and plenty of it - this is special occasion rice! They might use oil in everyday rice (katteh), but not making chelow for guests. For a Le Creuset type round dutch oven, start with 2-3 tablespoons on the bottom of the pot.

                Now, you can have a rice crust, a potato crust, or a bread crust.

                It's hard to pull off a plain rice crust without making it too brittle, but this is how I have seen it done: mix egg yolks or yogurt mixed with saffron water with enough rice to thinly cover the bottom of the pot. Or just mix rice with a lot more butter.

                For a potato crust, thinly slice (quarter inch) 1-2 peeled potatoes. Arrange in slightly overlapping circles in the melted butter at the bottom of the pan. Don't make the potato slices too thin or they might burn before the rice is done steaming.

                For a bread crust, take thin slices of crustless white bread and arrange the same way as for the potatoes.

                Now mound the drained rice over the crust you've prepared. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the rice and slip a few pats of butter in.

                Finally, drizzle some saffron water over the top of the rice.

                Now, take a folded tea towel (paper towels will work in a pinch) and stretch taut over the rim of the pot, holding in place with the lid. The towel should trap the steam and keep it from condensing and running back into the pot.

                Cook over very very low heat to steam the rice and brown the crust. After half an hour, you can crack the lid and start testing.

                Serve by mounding the rice in a serving dish. Pry the crust up and break it into pieces. You can arrange these on the rice serving dish or use a separate dish. Sometimes the crust is served in a separate dish with some brothy stew over it (khoresht - like ghormeh sabzi or gheimeh), particularly if it is a very hard rice crust.

                Please forgive inaccurate quantities and bad transliterations of Persian. Good luck making rice!

                7 Replies
                1. re: plum

                  Addendum - the right point to parboil the rice is until the white centre is no longer hard and crunchy.

                  1. re: plum

                    Thank You!!! for posting , these are great, detailed instructions. The potato crust sounds very good, I will have to try it soon!!
                    And the Saffron soaking is a cool to use saffron, I have only added the threads to rice ( paella) as it cooked.
                    Does the saffron color the rice evenly or is it 'marbled"? I have been served Persian rice with both yellow and white grains and I always assumed it was cooked separately and mixed together.

                    1. re: ciaolette

                      The rice is supposed to be marbled, mostly white but with some yellow bits mixed in. Maybe they cook the saffron roce separately in restaurants, but in people's homes I always see the saffron water poured into the pot so that aroma permeates the whole dish. If they could make a perfume that smelled like this rice, I'd wear it...

                      The potato crust is my hands-down favourite, although sometimes I make the bread crust using thin pieces of leftover flatbread like lavash or nan barbari.

                    2. re: plum

                      Hi, I know this thread is old but I'm hoping someone will see this question - is the saffron water the only water you add to this? Or do you add some water through the slow cooking process?

                      1. re: asiansupper

                        No more water is added (except for the drizzle of saffron water), and you should cover the inside of the top lid with a thin cotton tea towel to ensure that no water drips down into the cooking rice. The rice steams slowly as the bottom crust gets crispy - the end result is dry and fluffy, each grain separate and perfectly cooked. Good luck, asiansupper.

                        1. re: plum

                          Wow, thanks for the quick response plum! My fingers are crossed...

                      2. re: plum

                        plum, i have been researching this rice the last day, findng google recipes and CH topics. I just want to thank you for this very detailed recipe. Yours is the best i have found because you explain the reasoning behind everything. i know it took you hours to do this and i am really appreciative of your generosity.