Amazing Tahchin, a Persian Rice Cake
Apart from an amazing taste, it’s a good-looking Iranian food, and that’s why it’s an integral item on the menu of almost every restaurant, party, or formal ceremony in Iran. In Persian, “tah” means “bottom” and “chin” means “arrange”. So, the reason for such naming is that you have to arrange the ingredients and layer them up from the bottom of a dish to prepare them for cooking.
There are different versions of Tahchin all of which mainly involve layering rice and a kind of meat or vegetable. But one made with chicken is the most common and favored version of this Persian rice cake. And what’s come below is the recipe for it.
Ingredients to Cook Tahchin:
- 4 cups rice, pre-soaked for about 2 hours
- 800 g chicken, bone-in (preferably breast)
- 1 big onion, chopped
- 1 cup sour dripped yogurt
- 2 tsps. crumbled saffron threads
- 1 egg
- 1 cup chicken stock
- Cooking oil
- Salt and black pepper powder, to the taste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 50 g butter (optional)
- 1 cup dried barberry, pre-soaked for about 1 hour, for garnishing
- ½ cup almond slivers, for garnishing
- ½ cup pistachio slivers, for garnishing
Directions to Cook Persian Rice Cake:
1. Add 3-4 small ice cubes to the crumbled saffron in a cup. Set it aside and let the ice cubes melt slowly.
2. Cook the chicken in a pot with chopped onions, salt, turmeric powder, about 2 cups of boiling water, and 1 tablespoon of oil until it’s tender.
3. Take out the chicken and let it cool down. Then remove the bones and made chicken strips using your hands.
4. Drain the pre-soaked rice and add it to a pot of boiling water. Add some salt and simmer until al dente (soft on the outside, but a little bite left on the inside). Then drain it and rinse with cool water.
5. In a bowl, mix the dripped yogurt, prepared saffron, salt, pepper powder, and 1 tablespoon oil thoroughly. Take about ¼ of the mixture and set it aside. Then add the egg to the remaining part and whisk them.
- You can change the amount of saffron a little bit if you like your Tahchin with more or less color and flavor.
6. Take a nonstick baking pot and spread 1 tablespoon of oil at the bottom of it.
7. Mix 2 cups of the prepared rice with about half of the yogurt and egg mixture in a bowl. Then, spread it at the bottom of the pot and get it flat with the back of a tablespoon.
8. For the second layer of your Persian rice cake, mix the chicken strips with the second half of the yogurt and egg mixture and spread it evenly on the first layer.
9. For the third layer, cover the chicken strips with the remaining rice.
10. Mix 1 cup of chicken stock with the ¼ of the yogurt mixture you’d set aside and Spread it over the surface of the rice. Then, using the back of a large spoon put a little pressure on the rice to help the layers of your Tahchin stick together properly.
10. Cut up the butter and put the pieces on the rice. They will melt while cooking and give a delicate flavor to the food.
11. Cover the pot and put it over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then reduce heat to low and continue heating for about 1:30-2 hours. When the sides are golden brown and the rice is fluffy, it’s ready to serve.
- The bottom of the rice cake gets darker than the sides, so be careful not to overheat.
- Adding too much chicken stock, or spending more time for simmering the rice than what mention in the instruction makes your Tahchin mushy.
- The more the rice gets softer than al dente, the less amount of chicken stock and yogurt is needed.
- To cook this Persian rice cake, you can also use oven (Preheated 400 F, the lowest rack, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes). In this case, cover the dish with foil before heating. The required time adjustment depends on the type of the oven you use.
The Flavor of Creativity! Use a jumbo cupcake pan instead of the pot and serve your guests smaller personal-size Tahchins.
12. Fry the dried barberry, and almond and pistachio slivers with 1 tablespoon of oil for a few minutes, and set them aside for garnishing.
- They can be mixed, or fried separately.
- If you don’t like the sour taste of barberry, add a little sugar to it to balance the taste. Stir until the sugar is melted and then remove from heat.
How to serve:
Remove Tahchin from heat and Let it cool down for about 10 minutes. Then place a serving platter over the pot and invert it. Use the prepared barberry, almond, and pistachio to garnish. Dripped yogurt can be also used for decoration if you like. Before eating, the rice cake has to be cut into pieces with a knife.
Everybody takes a piece in their plates and enjoys the taste using a spoon and a fork. This Persian food is usually served with table vegetables, various kind of pickles, green salad, or Shirazi salad (a kind of cucumber and tomato salad flavored with sour grape juice or lemon juice attributed to Shiraz).
The outer layer, which is crispy golden brown, is the most favored part of this food. To be honest, I die for it, and I think most Iranians have the same feeling. In Persian, it’s called Tahdig which means the bottom of the pot because it’s the crispy layer made at the bottom of the cooking pot.
It may takes some time to learn how to adjust the proportion of ingredients to each other to have a perfect Tahchin. But when you gain mastery in doing this, at the moment you invert this Persian rice cake on a platter with that eye-catching golden brown look, it gives you the impression of a professional cook. That’s really enjoyable, believe me.