One way to define a culture is through its popular food. Every culture has a classic dish which represents the soul of its people and traditions. Tahdig is the soul food of Persian cooking. It has a crispy golden layer of fried rice at the bottom of the rice pot. with the dedicate flavor of aromatic saffron rice, it is served with nuts and raisins.
Inspired by Samin Nosart
I learnt about Tahdig for the first time while watching Samin Nosrat’s documentary on Netflix. The documentary is called “Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat”. I have been in love with her and middle eastern cooking since then. I was completely mesmerized by her knowledge and the way she took the audience on a food learning journey starting from the basics. Tahdig has been on my cooking list since then and today I finally got a chance to make it for my series #cookingbeyondborders.
The Perfect Tahdig
Considering the fact that even in Persian families, it takes years to perfect this dish, I can easily say, I was able to do justice to this classic though I’m not judging myself for not browning the potato layer enough or not taking it out in the form of a beautiful whole intact cake.
I made a potato tahdig using the simple classic cooking technique. The texture of rice was beautiful, the aromatic and fragrant saffron infused rice were just a treat with nuts and raisins.
Variation of Tahdig
There are traditionally different techniques used to create Tahdig.
- A simple tahdig with plain rice.
- Mixing yogurt with rice to give a thick consistency and later cooking in steam.
- Layering the bottom of the pan with lavash Persian flat bread before filling it with rice.
- Adding a bottom layer of sliced potatoes while prepping the tahdig. This is definitely the most glorious and tastier way of cooking this classic Persian delicacy.
The basic technique of making a perfect tahdig is by using extra cooking oil /ghee/butter in the bottom of the pan. This extra fat creates the crispy fried rice layer while the rice above are steamed. The technique used to create tahdig with yogurt and bread are based on methods improvised over the years to ensure that tahdig comes out intact.
Noosh-e jan! (Farsi/Persian for “bon appétit”)
Tahdig – A Persian Classic
- Basmati Rice – 2 cups
- Salt – 3 teaspoons
- Potatoes – 1 large, thinly sliced
- Saffron – ½ teaspoon dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
- Cooking oil / Ghee / Butter – 2 teaspoons each
Parcook the rice
- Soak basmati rice in cold water for one hour, drain and rinse the rice in cold water until rinse water runs clear.
- In a large pot, combine 4 cups water and 3 heaping teaspoons salt and bring to a boil.
- Add the rice and let the rice cook in water, uncovered, as it can easily boil over. After 5 – 6 minutes, check the grain of rice. Once ¾ cooked – not fully cooked; drain and rinse the rice under cold water to stop further cooking. Set aside.
Make the tahdig layer
- Take a deep pan, grease it with 2 tablespoons of ghee.
- Thinly cut the potatoes and season with salt and olive oil.
- Grind the saffron strands with pestle in mortar. Dissolve saffron in water for it to bloom.
- Layer the prepared potatoes at the bottom of the greased pot and spread a tablespoon of saffron water on top of it.
- Spread par cooked rice evenly over the layer of potatoes, saving half a cup of rice.
- Mix the left-over saffron mix in half a cup of par cooked rice.
- Top the saffron rice evenly on the top of white rice in the pot and pack it down tightly with a spatula. Sprinkle sea salt over the rice.
Cook the tahdig
- Poke 3- 4 holes in the rice with a chopstick, to cook evenly. The holes will allow the steam to pass from the bottom layer, so that a crispy crust can be formed.
- Cover the lid with a cloth so steam can’t escape from the lid. The cloth will absorb the steam, as a result rice or potato layer won’t get soggy.
- Initially turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook rice for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to very low flame.
- Open the lid of the pan and pour melted butter along the edges of the rice. Cook on medium high flame for another 10 minutes for even browning of the crust.
- Reduce the flame to low and cook for another 35 – 40 minutes.
- Open the lid.
- The edges of the bottom potatoes crust should be golden, and rice should be cooked completely. (if you don’t see any golden edges, cook on high flame again for 5 – 10 minutes, keeping a close eye. Don’t let the crust burn).
- To unmold the rice, run a spatula along the edges of the pan, there should be no sticking of rice on the sides of the pot.
- Flip the pot very carefully onto the platter or serving dish. It should come like a beautiful intact cake of fluffy rice with a golden crust.
- If you are afraid to flip the tahdig, scoop out the rice from the top onto the serving plate and then scrap out the tahdig in pieces with a spoon and be content and pleased that you made a beautiful tahdig.
- Garnish with roasted almonds and raisins.