The Art of Making Persian Tah-Dig

Rice Tah Dig

This unplanned post was brought about due to a reader's question regarding tah-dig. Chantalle asks: "Is there something I can do to get a better crust?" Great question! I've been blogging about Iranian food for months now but it didn't occur to me to write about tah-dig, the tastiest and most sought after part of a rice dish. If only tah-dig could speak it would probably be saying "I get no respect!." I feel I've neglected a precious and very important part of the Persian cuisine.


Potato Tah Dig

I write it as 'tah-dig.' You may write 'tahdig'/'tahdeeg', however, it's pronounced tadeeg. "Tah" means bottom and "dig" means pot in Persian/Farsi language. Tah-dig refers to the crunchy and crispy bottom layer of rice cooked in a pot. The formation of tah-dig is a perfect symphony between the right temperature, the amount of oil, aromatic rice, length of time, right kind of pan, some experience and a little patience. If you don't achieve the best kind of tah-dig the first time, don't worry. There's always the next rice dish you can experiment with. Since rice is a staple of Iranian cooking that's how we have eventually been able to conquer the art of  making tah-dig. As the old adage goes: "practice makes perfect!" And if this is any consolation, let me tell you that even experienced cooks falter sometimes.

Lavash Bread Tah Dig

Tah dig-e Reshteh Polow

Potato tah-dig

There are many kinds of tah-dig. The most well known is the rice tah-dig. There's also potato tah-dig (my favorite) which goes well with rice and chicken dishes. If you choose to layer the bottom of the pan with potato slices, cut them evenly and not too thin. Add a dash of salt after layering them, wait for a few minutes till they are a little bit fried then turn them over and pour the rice over the potatoes and follow the same steps as the rice tah-dig recipe. There's also the bread tah-dig. Any kind of flat bread could be used such as lavash or pita. I've had lettuce ta-dig too. It's very delicious. Then there's the very tasty macaroni tah-dig. A fantastic combination of crispy noodles, fresh tomatoes, and flavorful meat sauce.



Rice and Tah-dig

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 1/2 cups long grain white basmati rice
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 3 tablespoons of hot water
Salt
Water

Method:
  1. In a large bowl wash the rice with cool water a few times to get rid of the extra starch and pour the water out. Soak the rice in 8 cups of  cool water, add 3 tablespoons of salt and set aside for at least a couple of hours.
  2. In a large non-stick pot that has a tight fitting lid, bring 8 cups of water to a rapid boil on medium-high heat. 
  3. Drain the soaked rice and pour into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until the grains are long soft on the outside and hard in the center. Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water a few times.
  4. Wash the rice pot with water and and return to heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon of liquid saffron to the bottom of the pot, move the pan in a circular motion or use a wooden spoon to evenly cover the bottom with oil. 
  5. Remove from heat and with a large spatula return the parboiled rice back into the pot, building it into a pyramid shape away from the sides of the pot. 
  6. In order to release the steam make 4-5 holes in the rice with the handle of the wooden spatula. Place the pot back on the stove on medium-high heat, uncovered. 
  7. Wait about 7-10 minutes or until steam starts coming out of the pot. 
  8. Gently sprinkle a cup of water over the rice, cover, lower the heat and steam the rice for an hour. 
  9. It is very customary to cover the lid with a kitchen towel or 2-3 layers of thick paper towels to prevent the moisture from going back in the pot. Nowadays, there are fabric lid coverings especially made for this purpose in Iran. I do recommend using it for making a perfect tah-dig.
To serve tah-dig first serve the rice on a platter. Gently mix some of the rice with the dissolved saffron and arrange it nicely on top. Remove the tah-dig with a spatula and cut into small pieces. The only problem or draw back is that there is usually not enough tah-dig to go around.  Being the fifth kid out of six children, I know how that feels growing up, fighting over the last piece of tah-dig on the dinner table. That's called preparation for life!

Enjoy!

48 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness Azita, this is my favorite ever. My brother in law parent is Iranian. He thought me how to make this rice. It's become my favorite.

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  2. Love Tahdig! Yum! It is on my list of posts too!!

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  3. Elra, Thanks!

    My Persian Kitchen, Yes, I saw your beautiful bread tah dig!

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  4. Azita: I love tah dig too! I have made it a bunch of times and I succeed 50% of the time in getting it out of the pan intact! ( I use yoghurt in the crust too)

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  5. oh wow this looks yummy what an interesting post love your blog have a great weekend Rebecca

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  6. and an Art is is. beautiful, Azita. and mashallah what an amazing large family you have. the more siblings, the merrier. we are three sisters. :) x

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  7. Taste of Beirut, It happens to me too!

    Chow and Chatter, Thank you Rebecca.you're very kind.

    Shayma, We had a very loud and busy household with lots of friends/people coming and going all the time. I have two girls and enjoy a more peaceful home. Sometimes.:)

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  8. I'm glad I found your blog...it's wonderful!

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  9. I have seen this is a magazine and wanted to try it out. i wasn't sure I could do it. Thanks for the detailed recipe.

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  10. Deeba PAB, Thank you.

    Soma, Give it a try. It's delicious!

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  11. Ive always loved Tahdig since I was young but I've never attempted it because I felt it would never turn out right.I will give it a try using your recipe.Thanks for sharing.

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  12. cmiranda, give it a try, making tahdig is not as difficult as it may seem. let me know how it turns out! thanks for visiting.

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  13. Hi Azita,
    love your blog! keep 'em coming! quick question- do you boil/cook the rice before starting to build the bottom with the pyramid of rice? if not, then would 1 cup of water for 2 cups of rice be enough?

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  14. Pomegranad-lady, yes you need to parboil the rice before making it into a pyramid. Here's the link to how to make rice:http://turmericsaffron.blogspot.com/2008/12/rice-polow.html
    let me know how it turns out. thanks for stopping by.

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  15. Hi. I'm new to Persian cooking. My fiance is Iranian and I just got the cookbook "A Taste of Persia." I've only attempted the rice so far. :) Anywho, I made it in my rice cooker and the bottom of the cake did form a crust but it was just sticky and very slightly browned. There was no crunchy tahdig going on. The shape, and saffron in the middle was beautiful, but I was bummed about the poor tahdig. My cooker only has a white rice option and a brown rice option. I used the white option for white basmati.
    What went wrong?

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  16. Elizabeth, That's a good start! I suggest using a non-stick rice cooker and cook the rice for an additional 15 minutes or so. There are Iranian non-stick rice cookers that are good for making tah dig, you may find them in Iranian stores. Let me know how it turns out. Good luck!

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  17. Oh my gosh, I LOVE tah dig! I've never made potato tah dig; I've just used a tortilla (my favorite!) or the rice itself (also very good.) And my Iranian friend told me that lettuce is sometimes used, but I've never tried it. Unfortunately, I can't eat rice anymore since I'm on a special diet, so I'm glad I can enjoy tah dig vicariously through your beautiful pics. :)

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  18. Azita - I looove tahdig, but I've always been afraid to make it myself. Your method says to use a heavy non-stick pot, but are there any specific brands or anything that you recommend using?

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  19. Rose, I use good quality non stick cookware mainly for rice because the bottom crust (tah-dig) is prone to sticking and burning. So far, I'm satisfied with Cuisinart(GG Eco-Friendly) products. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out!
    Best wishes,
    Azita

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  20. Hi Azita, my potatoes in the tadig don't come out crunchy but always soft. I usually fry the potatoes in oil on both sides on high flame till golden, then lower the flame to the lowest, add the rice and cover with a towel and lid and let cook for another hour or so or till I see steam coming out ... what am I doing wrong?
    Thanks!

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  21. Mika, I would lightly fry one side of the potatoes in hot oil with a dash of salt on medium-high heat, turn them over and then I add the rice. You'll need to wait a few minutes until the steam starts coming up from the rice in the pot, wait for couple of minutes then you'll lower the heat, wrap the lid with a towel cover and cook for about an hour.

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  22. Thanks! Will try!! I hope my potatoes will be crunchy this time!!! :) thanks!

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  23. I usually use my rice cooker, so I bring rice, salt and water to a boil, let boil for about 2 minutes, then pour into a strainer. In the pot, I put a tablespoon ghee, cover the bottom with either thin slices of raw potatoe or thinly sliced Persian bread, then heap the rice into the pot and form a pyramid (like you describe above). I then put the cooker to "dark crust" (makes about 30 to 40 minutes). That's all. The rice turns out perfect, the tahdig deliciously crisp. I usually turn it all over onto a serving plate, just like a cake.

    When using a heavy pot instead of the cooker, I make sure I put the heat to minimum, not more. The rice (pre-cooked, like above) then takes about 30 minutes to be ready.

    Oh, and tahdig with yoghurt and an egg yolk is also very tasty.

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  24. Cabbage is also nice for a different type of tah-dig.

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  25. all the recipes i've seen or tahdiq look so incredibly unhealthy, especially because they use at least a cup of oil! good to see that there's less oily possibilities, so i'll give it a go next time. looking forward to the potato tahdiq the most.

    one question though: why should the rice be stacked up in a pyramid shape? a lot of persian cooking blogs emphasize that but i haven't found any difference in doing this or just cooking a flatter pot of rice. do you know? :)

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    1. Stacking up the rice in a pyramid shape keeps the rice more fluffy and easier to release the steam by gently poking a few holes in the rice. Also, keeping the rice in the middle prevents the rice from sticking to the sides and getting dried/burnt. We only want the tahdig at the bottom for this kind of rice. It's okay to have a flat surface when making kateh or cooking rice in a rice cooker.

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  26. hi azita! i love your blog. my boyfriend is persian and i love trying to make persian food for him. i'm making him tachin tomorrow night (love your recipe) and i have a question. could i make tahdig on my tachin? if so, would i still have to use a pyramid shape? how long would i cook it on the stove for? any other tips? THANK YOU SO MUCH. your blog is so beautiful & amazing!

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    1. Thank you, Buelsy. For tahchin you don't need to make the pyramid shape. Cook the the rice for about an hour in the oven or on the stove and it should have a thick layer of tahdig.

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  27. Thanks for the detailed instructions. Just one question - when you say add a tablespoon of saffron to the butter/oil in the pan, do you mean a spoon of the saffron mixed with water? What happens to the rest of the saffron water (I guess it goes on top at the end of the cooking time?)

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    1. Yes, that is what I meant to say. I made the necessary corrections in the recipe. Thank you.

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  28. Thanks so much for your swift response, Azita! I'm going to try making this - I love tah-dig.

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  29. years ago I had a persian boyfriend who taught me this. we used do dip the hot pan in cold water for a few seconds to release the crusty base before turning it out onto a plate. It works about 50% of the time!
    We also did a rice dish with vermicelli and sultanas that was delicious.

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  30. Have you tried making it with Lettuce ?

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    1. Not yet! I'm going to give it a try soon!

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  31. you have the best collection of recipes and the best tasing. well done Azita jan

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  32. Hi Azita!
    My sister once made a DELICIOUS tahdig, it was thick and crispy.
    She said her secret ingredient that made it so wonderful was yogurt...I've tried looking for other tahdig recipes that suggest this, but haven't been successful, do you have any input on this?

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    1. Hi Nasrin jan, you can mix a cup of rice, 2-3 tablespoons plain yogurt, saffron and oil/butter, cover the bottom of the pan with the mixture and continue following the recipe as directed.

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  33. Thank you for this. I am so glad I came across your blog! I have a very eclectic way of cooking, thanks to my military father and our travels and a dear friend of mine as a child was Iranian. I remember eating family dinners at her home and I remember watching her mother and grandmother cook and I try so hard to remember things. Now I am grown with a family of my own and when I cook my mom tells me I must be Persian. I take it as a compliment. I can't wait to try out some of the recipes you have!

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  34. Hi! Was Just reading about your Tah Dig! I was taught that if one runs cold water over the outside bottom of the pot of rice just before serving, that the tah dig is much easier to remove. We also would put the towel on the lid after the steam had started rising...2 or 3 minutes of the beginning heat with only the bare lid. I
    Love your Blog...and what a nice name!

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  35. Hi, 1 question, for the potato tahdig... do I par boil the rice first, then add potato to the bottom of the pan and continue from there? or are the potato's there from the start, (and if so, what is the best way to then drain the rice>

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    1. Hi, you parboil the rice first, drain rice using a colander, add oil to the bottom of the pot, layer the sliced potatoes, add the rice, cover and cook.

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  36. Azita Jan, this is brilliant! I tried Tahdeeg yesterday from an Iranian restaurant, and it was amazing! So thick, and crispy and saffron-y! Do you have any special tips to prevent the Tahdeeg from burning? And will ghee be okay instead of butter?

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    1. Amay, use enough vegetable oil or ghee to cover the bottom of the pot over medium heat. Add the rice, reduce the heat when steam starts coming up and cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel and cook the rice on low heat. Thank you!

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  37. Hi, have you ever made potato tahdig in the Persian rice cooker? If yes can you please share your expertise?

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    1. Hi, I have not tried the potato tahdig in the rice cooker and I don’t think it will come out as crispy as I would like it to be. If you happen to try it please let me know how it turns out.

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  38. The recipe I was taught added apricot and golden raisins with cardamom.

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  39. I am trying to perfect the plain crust before moving on to yoghurt and I am trying to make my crust the nice, golden-orange you have there. I think it's in the "frying" stage that this occurs. Can you explain why you need to wait for steam to come out? Does that mean all of the water has gone? I managed to get a uniform crust with a few grains here and there blackened a little, but the golden-orange eludes me.

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    1. You need to allow excess water to steam off for a few minutes and then cover the pot with a lid. Add a little bit more saffron water.

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