Jan 24, 2020

Crispy Persian Jeweled Rice Tahdig

Prep Time: 40 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Tahdig refers to the crispy, golden brown layer of rice that forms when par-boiled rice is fried in a pan of butter.

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The crisped rice is inverted and often served topped with currants or nuts. Tahdig is served alongside grilled meats or vegetables as well as stews or kabobs (basically whenever plain rice could also be served). And for a less expensive alternative to saffron in this recipe which is used to subtly flavor and give the rice it’s bright yellow color, try a pinch of dried turmeric powder instead.

I fell in love with this dish at Kismit, a restaurant in Silverlake on the East Side of Los Angeles, known for Mediterranean fare – my husband, Aaron, and I visited last year. They served their version of the crispy rice dish with an egg yolk hidden in the middle which somehow doesn’t cook with the rice, and when mixed into the fluffy, buttery rice makes for a rich side.

Crispy Persian Jeweled Rice Tahdig

What is Tahdig?

Tahdig refers to the crispy, golden brown layer of rice that forms when par-boiled rice is fried in a pan of butter. It’s prized in Iranian culture (similar versions of the dish also appear in other cuisines) and is also known as crispy rice or scorched rice.

There are other types of tahdig – it can be made with a layer or potatoes, bread (typically pita) or noodles at the bottom of the pan but my favorite is made simply using rice.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Saffron – Threads of the red spice are beautiful but they are also quite expensive. It’s so expensive (it made the list of most expensive foods) because each flower only produces a few threads and blooms for only a few weeks every year — not to mention they are harvested by hand. The threads of saffron add a subtle, sweet flavor as well as that striking color.
  • Basmati – This recipe calls for basmati. Basmati has light grains and a fragrant aroma. Though tahdig is typically made with basmati rice, any medium to long grain rice variety can easily be substituted. I generally use whatever type of rice I happen to have leftover.
Crispy Persian Jeweled Rice Tahdig-4.jpg

How Should I cook Tahdig?

While there are only a few ingredients in this dish, it’s all about technique, and it takes a bit of time. The majority of the recipe is properly cooking the rice so it is al dente. That way it finishes cooking when it’s pan-fried in the butter and does not become mushy. I’d recommend using a light, nonstick pan or pot for tahdig. It will allow the rice to release easily from the bottom of the pan and makes turning it over easier.

What happens if my crust breaks? 

You’re trying to flip your rice and the tahdig cracks or doesn’t all come out in one piece? Not to fret – go for a more rustic approach and spread the rice on a plate or in a bowl and top with pieces of tahdig. Scrape it out of the pan with a spatula if need be (plastic if using a non-stick pan so it doesn’t scratch).

How to Make Crispy Persian Jeweled Rice Tahdig

  1. Soak the rice. Add the rice to a medium mixing bowl and rinse the rice with cold water. Swirl with your fingers to release the starch. Drain and continue this process a few times, until the water runs clear. Once the water runs clear, let the rice soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
  2. Bloom the saffron. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Spoon two tablespoons of the boiling water into a small bowl. Stir the saffron into the small bowl of water and let sit.
  3. Par-cook the rice. Add salt to the large pot of boiling water, then add the rice and boil until the rice is just tender. Cook until the rice is e soft on the outside but still al dente, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and rinse with cold water to stop the rice from cooking. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir together the yogurt and saffron. In a medium mixing bowl stir together the yogurt, saffron water and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. Stir in 1 heaping cup of the boiled rice.
  5. Add the rice mixture to a pan. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil and heat through. Add the remaining melted butter. Add the yogurt-rice mixture and spread out in an even layer using a wooden spoon.
  6. Make holes in the rice for steam. Pile the remaining rice into the pan, mounding it in a pyramid towards the center. Use the handle of the wooden spoon to make 6 holes in the rice down to the bottom of the pot to allow steam to escape from the bottom. This way the bottom will become crispy. The oil and butter mixture should be bubbling up the sides of the pan, add additional oil if needed.
  7. Cook the rice. Cook the rice over medium-high heat until the mixture is evenly browned along the edges, about 8 minutes. Cover the mixture with a lid wrapped in a kitchen towel and lower the heat to medium-low. Steam the rice until it’s tender and cooked through. Turn the pan every 10 minutes to ensure even browning, about 20 minutes total.
  8. Flip the pan and serve. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes then place a plate on top of the pan and invert the rice onto it so the tahdig is on top. Top with the pumpkin seeds and raisins.
persian rice tahdig recipe

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Crispy Persian Jeweled Rice Tahdig

crispy yellow saffron on a white plate topped with rasins
Print Pin
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • ½ cup whole milk plain yogurt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins

Instructions:

  • Add the rice to a medium mixing bowl and rinse the rice with cold water, swirling with your fingers to release the starch. Drain and continue this process a few times, until the water runs clear when it’s drained. Once the water runs clear, let the rice soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Spoon two tablespoons of the boiling water into a small bowl. Stir the saffron into the small bowl of water and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
  • Add salt to the large pot of boiling water, then add the rice and boil until the rice is just tender. Cook until the rice is e soft on the outside but still al dente, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and rinse with cold water to stop the rice from cooking. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • In a medium mixing bowl stir together the yogurt, saffron water and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. Stir in 1 heaping cup of the boiled rice.
  • Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil and heat through then add the remaining melted butter. Add the yogurt-rice mixture and spread out in an even layer using a wooden spoon.
  • Pile the remaining rice into the pan, mounding it in a pyramid towards the center. Use the handle of the wooden spoon to make 6 holes in the rice down to the bottom of the pot to allow steam to escape from the bottom and crisp the bottom. The oil and butter mixture should be bubbling up the sides of the pan, add additional oil if needed.
  • Cook the rice over medium-high heat until the mixture is evenly browned along the edges, about 8 minutes. Cover the mixture with a lid wrapped in a kitchen towel and lower the heat to medium-low. Steam the rice until it’s tender and cooked through, turning the pan every 10 minutes to ensure even browning, about 20 minutes total.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes then place a plate on top of the pan and invert the rice onto it so the tahdig is on top. Top with the pumpkin seeds and raisins.

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  1. Oh my gosh this came out perfectly. So freaking tasty. I have really well seasoned cast iron and was able to use that. Slipped right out in one whole glorious cake. Thank you so much for always making these things so foolproof.