Persian rice plays an undeniable role in Iranian cuisine. The variety of rice types and also the Persian style rice cooking methods in Iran seems unbelievable. Believe it or not, making good Persian food is an Art. It can seem long and intimidating, but the key virtue in the Persian culinary tradition is patience. And a little bit of patience is all you need in order to cook the perfect fluffy Persian rice.
The history of Persian rice
The farming of rice reached Iran from southeast Asia and India. It was a specialty of the Safavid empire’s royal household cuisine at first and became a major part of Iranian cuisine by the end of the 16th century. Before that, during the 7th-13th centuries, rice was cultivated in Azerbaijan, Fars, Khuzestan and most importantly, the Caspian provinces – the very regions that are still the main areas of rice production.
Nowadays with the arrival of spring, the process of cultivating Persian rice begins…
The Iranian farmers take great pride in their rice fields in producing the most delicately flavoured rice known. Most of the long-grain rice that is grown in Iran comes from the Caspian Sea area, the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, as well as the slopes of the Alborz mountains. A small quantity for local consumption is also grown wherever an abundant supply of water is available.
Moreover, it is not only the type and quality of the rice that matters, but the age of it is also important! We Iranians believe it is better to store Persian rice for at least a year before using it.
There are different types of Persian rice in Iran such as Gerde, Domsiah (black tail, because it’s black at one end), Champa, Doodi (smoked rice), Lenjan and Tarom. Cooking methods also differ depending on the food type or the occasion in which the food is going to serve.
Here are a few Persian rice terms you will find useful before cooking:
- Berenj is a general term for rice grains.
- Chelo is the name applied to steamed Persian white rice cooked separately and over which different types of stew or meats and kabab are served with.
- Polo, often called Persian rice pilaf in the West, is the name applied to rice with which other ingredients are mixed in the cooking process.
The Persian method of cooking rice is very different and quite unique when compared with other rice-consuming cultures. Hence why people are extremely intimidated when it comes to making Persian rice.
What rice to use when cooking Persian rice?
The most important point to have in mind is that Iranians don’t use any other type of rice except basmati. It’s also crucial to use a non-stick pan.
Cooking rice in Iran also has a few other tricks that you won’t find in other rice-loving nations. In the Persian Method of cooking rice, you go through 5 steps to achieve perfectly cooked fluffy Persian rice:
- and finally steaming
How to cook Persian rice the right way?
#1 Measure out the rice and place in a bowl. For every person, you should consider 1 cup of 80g of rice. For every cup of rice, you need 1 and a half cup of water.
#2 Wash the Persian rice a few times until the water is clear. This is a crucial Persian technique; to wash out all the excess starch.
#3 Add water on top of the rice with two Tsp salt for every cup of rice and let the rice soak for at least an hour; this allows the rice to soften as it absorbs water. Rice may be soaked to decrease cooking time, conserve fuel, minimize exposure to high temperature, and reduce stickiness. For some varieties of Persian rice, soaking improves the texture of the cooked rice by increasing expansion of the grains.
#4 Bring water to boil in a non-stick pot, then add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Drain the soaked rice and pour it into the boiling water. Give it a quick stir then cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. It is best to test the rice after about 10 minutes. The grains should be soft on the outside and still hard in the center.
#5 Once the rice reaches the aldente point, drain it in a strainer and give it a good rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and to prevent getting mushy rice.
#6 To make the Tahdig, add oil or butter to the bottom of the pot and place flatbread such as Lavash or pitta. Then pile the rice on top in the shape of a pyramid or mountain.
What is Tahdig?
In Farsi, Dig is pot and Tah means bottom—so Tahdig literally means “bottom of the pot”. It is the golden, crunchy-crisp layer at the bottom of the pot, and it is one of the main components of any Persian meal. Every platter of Persian rice must be served with this top-notch accessory. Iranians are seriously in love with their versions of Tahdig, and it’s common to see them jokingly fight over it.
#7 Dig several wells in the rice with the handle of a spatula or tablespoon for better steaming. And you can also place the ground saffron mixture in the middle so it can be brewed with rice steam. Just make it’s in a heat-proof glass container.
Pour a little hot water (about 1/4 cup) around the sides, to help with the steaming.
#9 Wrap the lid in a Damkoni (a clean tablecloth). Cover the lid firmly on the pot, and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes, until the steam is built up.Then lower heat to medium-low and steam the rice for another 30 to 40 minutes depending on the amount of rice you’re cooking.
#10 When the Persian rice is fully cooked use a large scoop to take some rice from the top and mix it with dissolved brewed saffron in a bowl to use for garnish. This Persian saffron rice topping is almost inseparable from every Iranian rice dish.
#11 Gently serve rice on a platter, sprinkle the saffron rice on top. Remove the Tahdig (bottom bread crust) and serve on a separate plate.
And voila! Your perfect Persian fluffy rice is ready! Sprinkle some barberries and coarsely chopped pistachios on top and it’s ready for a feast.