Classic Persian rice

Classic Persian rice


Mark Roper

Once you’ve grasped the basic parboil–rinse–steam technique of chelow, you’ll be ready to tackle other Persian rice dishes as most follow the same method.


Quantity Ingredient
300g basmati rice
2 tablespoons sea salt
70ml vegetable oil
40g unsalted butter, melted


  1. Wash the rice thoroughly, then leave it to soak in a generous amount of lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Swish it around with your fingers every now and then to loosen the starch.
  2. Strain the rice, rinsing it again with warm water. Bring 2 litres water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and stir in the strained rice. Return the water to a rolling boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Test the rice by pinching a grain between your fingers or by biting it. It should be soft on the outside, but still hard in the centre. Strain the rice and rinse again with warm water. Toss it several times to drain away as much of the water as you can.
  3. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and add the oil and 2 tablespoons water. As soon as the oil begins to sizzle, spoon in enough rice to cover the base of the saucepan in a thin layer, then spoon in the rest of the rice gradually, building it up into a pyramid. Don’t tip it all in at once, as this will squash the rice and you won’t achieve the proper fluffy lightness. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke 5 or 6 holes down through the rice to the base of the pan to help it steam. Mix 2 tablespoons warm water with the melted butter and drizzle this over the rice. Wrap the saucepan lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pan as tightly as you can.
  4. Leave the pan on a medium–high heat for a 2–3 minutes until the rice is visibly steaming – you will see puffs of steam escaping from the edges of the pan. Turn the heat down to low and leave the pan alone for 40 minutes. Resist the temptation to peek, as this releases the steam and affects the cooking time. The rice can actually sit quite happily over the lowest possible heat for another 20 minutes or so.
  5. When ready to serve, sit the saucepan in a little cold water in the sink; the sudden change in temperature creates a surge of steam that ‘shocks’ the rice and makes it shrink from the sides, which loosens the crusty bottom.
  6. To serve, invert the pan onto a warm serving platter so that the rice plops out as one glorious, golden-capped mound. Otherwise, spoon the rice into a warm serving dish and when you reach the crispy base, lift it out and drape it over the rice. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if the tah-deeg breaks. Alternatively, present it on a separate plate.

Saffron tah-deeg

  • The simplest tah-deeg can also be jazzed up a bit by sprinkling saffron liquid instead of plain water into the sizzling oil just before you add the parboiled rice to the pan.

Yoghurt tah-deeg

  • Beat 2 tablespoons thick natural yoghurt with 1 egg and 1 tablespoon saffron liquid. Mix this with a generous scoop of the parboiled rice and spread it over the sizzling oil. Spoon in the rice and steam as described.

Potato tah-deeg

  • Arrange thin, slightly overlapping slices of waxy potato in the sizzling oil. Spoon in the rice and steam as described.

Bread tah-deeg

  • Lay a piece of Lavash or a pita bread split in half in the sizzling oil. Fill any gaps with torn bits of bread. Spoon in the rice and steam as described.
Middle Eastern
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