The Holy Quest for the Perfect Tah-dig

tahdigGrowing up on the Canadian prairies in the ’70s, rice came from a “Minute” emblazoned red box, into to the pot and then the table in five minutes, only to be re-soaked in the sauce equivalent of Alberta crude, China Lily. Thanks to two Iranian roommates, all of that changed for me during grad school when I experienced first-hand the miracle of precision that is Persian rice and its glorious Tah-dig.

My roomy Peiman would spend an enormous amount of time and care in the preparation of the rice. Washing, parboiling, steaming and lining the pot with a bit of oil or butter and thin slices of potato. I think the potato may be a bit of a cheat, but it seems to be a popular one.

The desired outcome is a golden dome. When ready, the rice can be deposited on a plate by flipping it like a bucket of sand on the beach when making sandcastles. If you have done everything right, the result is the holy grail of rice, the perfect Tah-dig.

There are plenty of recipes for Persian rice in The Google, but the essential trick is to parboil your rice for 5 minutes then rinse a lot, then line the bottom of the pan with some butter or oil (thin slices of potato optional) and then cook on low heat for a half hour or so. You can add herbs, saffron, nuts, lentils or whatever you want, in small quantities. Some recommend steam vents in the rice via a spoon handle. Peiman also recommends a cloth or paper rag between the lid and pot to stop condensation from re-soaking the rice.

Some say that to loosen the Tah-dig so you can flip it, lower the bottom of the pan into cold water. Others say to serve the mound of fluffy rice separate from the Tah-dig, which deserves its own special plate of honor.

You will not get this right the first time, or maybe even the fifth time, because it is hard to see what’s going on. Peiman says to wet your finger and touch the side of the pot. If is makes a sizzling sound the rice may be done. I don’t know if he is having me on with this one or not. He’s a bit mischievous.

Good luck!

Photo by flickr user Novon.


4 Responses to “The Holy Quest for the Perfect Tah-dig”

  1. Posted on August 22nd, 2009

    Wow. This sounds amazing, yet even with the photo and your description, I struggle to imagine what this looks or tastes like. It sounds essentially like fluffy rice with some crispy, butter-fried crunch, right? Gotta try this myself.

  2. Posted on September 12th, 2009

    I make this all the time. It’s wonderful to see it featured and described by someone else who’s not Iranian/Persian. My boyfriend of 2 years has been trying to teach me to make this and I’ve recently caught on and I don’t think I’ll go back to steaming the rice in a measured cup of water. I like making it this way. We use golden basmati rice. I put salt in the butter and he likes for the butter to be stirred into the rice. It’s crunchy, salty and oily. Very nice.

  3. Posted on October 5th, 2010

    Evan — do you remember eating this at our wedding? Leila’s aunt catered it, and this was the dish I asked for. I still make it, according to her recipe. You wrap the lid with a tea towel, and Leila showed me how to grip the pot’s handle so you can tell when the rice is done. AWESOME. She also said that a swipe of tomato paste with the butter is good, though generally (and according to Leila’s directions), I melt the butter first, make a ‘volcano’ in the rice, pour the melted butter in, whap that lid on (after parboiling for 5 minutes or so). Leave on heat for 10 minutes, turn off and let ‘er sit. It’s important to soak the rice first, too, of course.


  4. Posted on August 15th, 2011

    Tah-Dig, the royal crown of every Persian table! Tip: an almost no fail method, is to add a couple spoonfuls of yoghurt to the rice you plan on placing at the bottom for the tah-dig (add a couple of drops of saffron infused water as well, and you have bliss!)

    Love the site!

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