Among various ingredients used in Iranian Cuisine, I can mention rice as one of the most widely used ones. As you know, it’s something included in recipes from all over the world, but here, in Iran, you can have a unique taste experience with this ingredient when it’s cooked. In fact, the crispy, bottom layer made through the process of cooking, called tahdig, provides you with such opportunity.
Regarding this specialty of Iranian cuisine, a brief explanation about cooking rice in Iran seems necessary. There are various kinds of cooked rice based on different methods used. And here, I’m going to introduce two of the most common versions, namely Polo and Chelo.
Chelo is whitish plain rice cooked and served alongside different kinds of Kebabs or stews. And when the rice is mixed with some other ingredients like herbs, vegetables, fruits, beans, meat, or a combination of them, it’s called Polo.
As I mentioned, you can have rice plain or flavored. But the main point is that you can make and enjoy the crispy and appetizing tahdig anyway. It’s also possible to make various kinds of tahdig using different ingredients. You just need to match the ingredients mixed with rice and those used for tahdig in terms of taste and smell.
Although there are some differences between Polo and Chelo, they have some things in common in the process of cooking. For both of them, the process begins with simmering until al dente. Then there are draining and rinsing phases. And it ends with getting cooked gently over low heat with the lid on.
General Directions to Cook Tahdig
No matter what kind of tahdig you’re going to make, there some general phases for this specialty of Iranian Cuisine:
1. Simmer the rice with some salt until al dente. Then drain it and rinse with cold water.
- If you’re going to cook Polo, you have to mix the prepared ingredients in this phase, after rinsing the rice.
2. Put a nonstick pot over medium heat. Add about 2-3 tablespoons oil and wait until sizzling. Reduce heat to low.
3. Arrange the ingredients you like for tahdig at the bottom of the pot. Transfer the prepared rice to the pot and cover it. Let the rice cook gently until it’s fluffy but not sticky. (the exact time for cooking is not mentioned here because it depends on the ingredients you mix with rice).
4. When the sides are golden brown, your Polo or Chelo is ready to serve.
- The bottom layer, tahdig, gets darker than the sides, so be careful not to overheat.
Directions for Different Kinds of Tahdig:
You can use almost everything to cook this specialty of Iranian cuisine including bread, seeds, vegetables, cereals, meat, etc., or you can make it plain. The following list offers some of the most common varieties of Tahdigs:
1. Using Rice Only
To make this type, you don’t need any supplementary ingredient. Just transfer your plain or mixed rice to the pot, and let the rice itself to crisp.
- For a better flavor and color of tahdig, you can add some liquid saffron to the sizzling oil at the bottom of the pot, and then transfer the prepared rice.
2. Using Bread
Arrange sheets of bread in the pot and then add the rice. For other kinds of bread coming in loaves, cut them into thin slices (but not very thin since they may burn) and use them.
3. Using Potato or Carrot
Cut them into thin circles, arrange then in the pot, sprinkle some salt, and then add the rice. They can be also cut into long thin strips or diced. You can also make a combination of both potato and carrot.
4. Using Seeds
Sunflower kernels, sesame, caraway or cumin are the most common ones I can suggest. Sunflower kernels and sesame together is also a good combination. Sesame, caraway, or cumin can be used together with potatoes as well. In that case, sprinkle some seed at the bottom of the pot, layer the potatoes on it, and then add the rice.
- Such ingredients can burn easily. So be careful not to overheat. To give your tahdig a better color, add some turmeric powder or liquid saffron to the oil. I myself prefer saffron.
5. Using Lettuce, Spinach, or Fresh Parsley
Arrange some leaves of these vegetables in the pot and then add the rice. In this case you have to be careful about heating, too. Use gentle low heat for cooking.
- Lettuce and parsley would be better with that kinds of Polo containing herbs since their colors are in more harmony with each other.
6. Using Yogurt and Dried Mint
Mix 3-4 tbsps. prepared plain rice with 2-3 tbsps. yogurt, 1 tbsp. crushed dried mint leaves, and some liquid saffron. Level the mixture at the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining rice.
- Make this kind of tahdig with Chelo.
- 1 egg and some garlic powder are optional ingredients to add to the mixture.
7. Using Chicken Wings
Fry the wings with some turmeric powder and grated onion in a frying pan until they get golden brown and almost tender. Then add some salt and continue heating for a few more minutes. Arrange the prepared wings in the pot and add the rice.
8. Using Mushroom
Cut the mushrooms into thin pieces. While the oil is sizzling add some turmeric powder and stir a bit. Then arrange the mushrooms in the pot, sprinkle some salt, and add the rice on top of this type of tahdig.
9. Using Onion
Cut an onion into rings. Add some liquid saffron to the sizzling oil. Arrange the onions in it, and then add the rice.
10. Using Corn Flakes
Level the corn flakes at the bottom of the pot, sprinkle some salt, and add the rice.
How to Serve Tahdig:
Remove the pot from heat. Let it cool down for about 10 minutes with the lid on. Then place a serving platter over the pot and invert it. Or you can empty the cooked rice onto a serving platter using a spatula, and then put tahdig onto a separate dish to serve your yammy tahdig as part of the main course. Cut tahdig into pieces with the help of a knife or a fork to make it easy to take.
This specialty of Iranian cuisine gives you the chance to show your artistic talent in cooking. Just make use of your creativity and create a special tahdig everyone can enjoy.