Persian Rice with Tahdig Sibzamini

A small paintbrush, a steady hand,
FD&C Yellow #6 food dye, and a few days
 free time is all you need to make this
delicious coloured rice dinner.
I've always found it challenging to cook basmati rice, so that the grains are separate and fluffy, but neither hard, nor over done and mushy. (Parboiled rice is much easier, but does not have the same taste and texture, or "cachet"). From my experiences in an Iranian restaurant, I could see that the Persians solved that problem. I learned that is, in part, because they cook it twice. Once by boiling, then by a long steaming stage. In addition, they might use a lengthy pre-soak (as much as 24 hours), which helps condition the rice.  In general, their seasoning is very subdued, as compared with many recipes in the Indian version of basmati. But there's something to be said for that as well, as humble seasoning practices allow the natural flavour of the foods to remain unhidden. So expect Persian rice to be relatively simple, but perfectly cooked and very tasty all the same.

Tahdig Sibzamini: Although the "tahdig" is optional in Iranian cooking, it's a very good example of rice that is uniquely Iranian. A "tahdig" (aka "Tahdiq", "Tahdeeg", "Tardig") is where a flavored crust is formed on the bottom of the cooking vessel, as a sort of covering for the rice. It might just be saffron water, or, as in the case of tahdig sibzamini ("sibzamini" = "potatoes") potatoes. However, pita bread (cut in triangles) could be used instead. The potato tahdig might be a bit tricky to do at first, without practice. As getting the crust out to brown and not burn, or simply getting it out of the pot in relatively one piece, is not as easy as it sounds. (Ideally, should be dark orange). But it's worth practicing, because it makes for a very special and tasty rice dish. This recipe is here to accompany the chicken kabab recipe.


2 c basmati rice
4 c water
1 potato, large, 1/4" thick slices (optional) (or pita bread, cut in triangles)
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t saffron, dissolved in 2 T hot water (optional)
1/2 c olive oil (or butter)
1 T yogurt (optional)


Wash and clean the rice. (Optionally: pre-soak the rice in 4c water with 1 T salt for 2-24 hours. Drain water. n.b. This helps make the rice less sticky). Fill a large pot (preferably non-stick) with the 4c cold water, add the salt and rice, and boil for 6-10 minutes (until "al denté", slightly firm to the bite), stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse. Return pot to the stovetop, placing heat on med-high, and add 6T of the oil (or butter), along with 1/4c water, 1/4t salt and some of the coloured saffron water and mix well (Optional: Add 1T plain yogurt).

Tahdig (rice crust):  Add about 4T of cooked rice to the pot, and mix well with the liquids.

Tahdig Sibzamini (potato crust): Place the potato slices along the bottom of the pan in a single layer, and allow them to brown a couple of minutes. (Optional: Use pita slices cut in triangles instead of potatoes).

Next, carefully pour the cooked rice on top of this, and move it away from the sides of the pot with a spoon (in order to brown just the bottom). Poke a few holes in the rice with the end of a wooden spoon. Cover pot with a kitchen towel, then with the pot lid, and cook for 10-15 minutes on med-high. Mix the remaining 2T oil to 1/2c hot water (if using butter, you may need to soften it first). Then pour this mixture over the rice, into the holes and around the edges. Turn heat to very low, cover again with the towel and lid, and cook 45-50 minutes.

Remove from heat, let pot cool uncovered for a few minutes (preferably on a wet kitchen towel, which helps release the contents of the pot). To remove the rice and its bottom crust, you can use a spatula to loosen it around the sides, place a serving platter over top of the pot and flip to release the rice. If the potato crust (tardiq) has stuck to the bottom, it can be removed with the spatula. Or you can simply remove the rice, leaving the crust, then remove the crust and serve separately.


Mix the remaining saffron water with some of the cooked rice to color the grains yellow, and place the yellow grains on top of the rice, for a decorative effect. (You can also sprinkle strands of saffron on the rice for further effect). Serve alongside chicken kababs with a Persian soup.

Yield: 4 -5


Huda said...

What does it mean by 'boil' and then add the potatoes? Should the potatoes be boiled separately first before being added to the rice mixture?


The Recipeless Cook said...

Hi. Sorry for the confusion. I wasn't clear that "boil" simply referred to the previous step of having boiled the rice. I've since removed the word to avoid confusion. So the procedure then is, after emptying the rice from the pot and draining it, you simply add the sliced potatoes to the pot, along with the 6T oil or butter, and brown on med-high a few minutes, as it sizzles. The idea is to get the potato golden brown, before going on to the next step of cooking the rice a second time.

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