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Crispy saffron rice, I love my mother-in-law!

December 2, 2009

I have been enjoying this sweet, crispy, slightly chewy rice known as Tahdig (pronounced TA deeg) ever since I met my Persian wife 17 years ago. Her mother makes this rice as a base for most of the Persian stews. I have always enjoyed the mystery of her authentic Persian cooking. I almost didn’t want to know how to cook it. It was nice all these years to have a couple days off of cooking and eat something that was completely foreign to me and completely tasty. I decided that I could no longer be kept in the dark on something that was this good. Lilly, my mother-in-law, happily agreed to spend a few hours in the kitchen together. She taught me how to make Tahdig along with a few classic Persian stews. My borders continue to expand via the endless pleasure of spices and new techniques.

I think the spices are what really drew me in. I love the way two spices that are known for being strong and full of color come together to create something even better than their brilliant individual attributes.  Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice by weight, delivers its brilliant red color and hay-like, sweet, flowery perfume to the dish. Saffron transforms what could be considered a peasant-like rice dish into something luxurious. Turmeric lightens the red glow with its mustard-like shine and brings a slight peppery, earthy quality to the rice. The natural conversion of the starch in the rice to sugar as it caramelizes in the bottom of the pan creates the most incredible lid of texture that encases the tender, rich rice below.

I made my version of it last night for the family and they loved it. I was thrilled and relieved as the bar was high. It is dangerous to try to compete with the mother-in-law on her culinary turf.

Here you go. Give it a try and enjoy!
Want another version? Pre-cook the rice in water like pasta. Drain it. Mix it with the same ingredients but put it into a pot lined with oiled potato slices. Hello!

Eat well, Enjoy life, Be happy

Tahdig cripsy Persian rice
2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 teaspoon saffron, threads or powder
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
In a medium NON-STICK pot add the rice. Rinse with cold water and pour the water out leaving just the wet rice behind. Add the 3 C of water, yogurt, spices, salt and 1 TB of the oil. Stir together and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to low and cover the rice. Cook until all the water is absorbed (20-25 minutes).

Remove lid and using the handle of a rubber spatula or something similar make five holes in the rice (spread out evenly) “drilling” to the bottom of the pan. Fill each hole with a TB of olive oil. Turn and tilt the pan a little and the oil will dissapear and end up on the bottom of the pan.

Turn the heat back on to medium and place the lid on slightly ajar. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let cool for a minute. Flip the pan over onto a serving plate and you will be rewarded with the golden, crispy rice now on top. Serve with a classical Persian stew or any of your favorite stews.

Recipe Notes
Basmati rice has a nutty flavor and perfect texture to stand up to the heat of cooking the rice twice.

Don’t be afraid of not being able to see the bottom of the rice becoming brown. There is a reasonable range from light golden to very dark golden that will still be tasty. Once you play with the recipe on your stove you will find the sweet spot.

I like to grind my saffron threads in a mortar before adding so that the beautiful color is evenly absorbed by the rice.

Keep the lid ajar on the second cooking is key to let steam escape so that the bottom gets crispy without over cooking the rice.

The rice is great heated up the next day as leftovers.

Don’t hesitate to experiment with other spices and herbs. I love to use the citrusy sumac. You can use cumin and oregano and serve it with a Mexican stew!

Serves: 6.  Preparation Time is 10 minutes.  Inactive Preparation Time is 00 minutes.  Cooking Time is 40 minutes.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2009 6:20 pm

    I’ve never eaten Tahdig before, but the way you described the spice blend and caramelization of rice makes me want to break my piggy bank for some good saffron!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      December 7, 2009 4:29 pm

      Thank you Jessica, you will be glad you did! 🙂

  2. December 2, 2009 8:35 pm

    Hello Jeff,

    A little birdie who is friends with your wife told me about you…Love the blog!
    Persian rice is heavenly, isn’t? 🙂

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      December 3, 2009 9:17 am

      I thank that birdie! It is the best. Have a great holiday. 🙂

  3. December 3, 2009 7:23 am

    Love tahdig, who doesn’t? Great post on Persian food and spices. I just stumbled upon your blog and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      December 3, 2009 9:16 am

      Thank you Azita. Happy Holidays. Jeffrey 🙂

  4. Radha permalink
    December 11, 2009 11:00 pm

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Made it a few days ago – followed your instructions except for one step – the use of a NON STICK pan – lol – dont know what I was thinking – despite the bottom sticiking to the pan the rice was still good – I had cooked it with some fresh ginger, a cinammon stick, bay leaves, tumeric and some saffron – used olive oil as suggested (instead of butter in traditional indian (my background) cooking. In the end topped it off with some pomegranate seeds and sumac – Yummy. Today tried it again – but this time in a rice cooker! – its my only non stick container in the house – didnt add any spices but got the lovely crusty botton pictured above – basically once its done cooking in the cooker – i made the holes as suggested, poured in the olive oil, and kept the button pushed down to the cook setting for about 10-15 minutes until the crust formed. Came out pretty good

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink
      December 12, 2009 9:19 am

      Sounds good Radha! Well done. The rice cooker is an option for sure. Happy Holidays.

  5. September 28, 2010 9:52 pm

    I am bookmarking this right now. The rice looks amazing. Beautiful color, so many great ingredients, the flavor must be great. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeffrey Saad permalink*
      September 30, 2010 10:22 am

      Thank you Trish! Enjoy and thanks for reading. Cheers! Jeffrey 🙂

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