How to Make Tahdig (Persian Crunchy Rice)
1 hour 35 minutestotal time
2 cups basmati rice (13 3/4 ounces; 390g)
6 tablespoons (54g) Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed; for table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter (see notes)
2 generous pinches ground saffron (optional)
In a large bowl, cover rice with enough cold water to cover by 1-inch. Using your hand, swirl the rice around until the water turns cloudy. Pour off the cloudy water through a fine-mesh strainer to catch any escaping rice, then return rice to bowl and refill with fresh cold water. Repeat the process until the water runs clear, about 5 or 6 times. Drain the washed rice well in the colander.
Return drained rice to large bowl along with 3 tablespoons (27g) salt. Add enough cold tap water to cover the rice by 1 inch. Gently stir to dissolve the salt. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Drain in the small-hole colander.
In a large nonstick pot or enameled Dutch oven, bring 2 quarts (1.9L) water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons (27g) salt. Add drained rice, then gently stir to ensure that there is no clumped rice and there is no rice stuck to the bottom of the pot. Return to a vigorous boil, then cook until the the rice has grown 1.5 to 2 times in length and the outside of each grain is cooked but not mushy and the center of the grain shows some resistance, 5 to 8 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and drain through a small-hole colander.
Rinse rice well with cold water for about 30 seconds (you want to stop the cooking and to wash off any excess starch released during boiling). Taste a few grains of rice for saltiness; if more seasoning is desired, sprinkle rice all over with 1 teaspoon salt. In a small pot, combine butter with 1/3 cup (80ml) water and heat just until butter is melted. If using saffron, in a very small bowl, steep ground saffron in two tablespoons of hot water; set aside.
Wash the pot used to parboil the rice. Pour half of the water and butter mixture into the pot. Using a large spoon or a spatula, gently mound the parboiled rice into the center of the bottom of the pot; do not dump the rice from the colander. Instead, carefully build the mound up, making sure the rice forms a mountain shape and does not touch the sides of the pot. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make 6 to 8 holes deep into the mound including one in the center (this will facilitate the release of steam from the lower parts of the mound).
Wrap the pot’s lid in a clean, thick kitchen towel, then cover the pot tightly (wrapping the lid in a kitchen towel prevents steam from escaping and absorbs any moisture that would have condensed on the inside of the lid and dripped down on the rice). Set over medium-high heat (use a heat diffuser, if you have one, for more even browning) and cook until you can hear sizzling sounds inside the pot and steam begins to fill it (you can carefully lift the lid to peak if unsure), about 5 minutes. Uncover pot, gently pour the remaining water-butter mixture over the rice mound, then re-cover pot with the towel-wrapped lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, rotating the pot a quarter-turn every 10 to 15 minutes, until rice is tender and fluffy, about 45 minutes. Continue cooking about 10 minutes longer to help in the formation of the tahdig (you can go even longer for a thicker and crunchier tahdig, though it's best to lower the heat even further if you do so to minimize the risk of burning).
Fill your sink with 1 inch cold water. Without taking the lid off the pot, set the rice pot immediately in the water filled sink (alternatively, set the pot on top of a thoroughly wet kitchen towel); this will help in getting the tahdig out. Let stand 4 minutes. Move the pot to your kitchen counter and carefully remove the lid (you want to avoid any hot steam that might come out, and also make sure not to let any condensed water drip down onto the rice mound).
Using a slotted spoon or a spatula, and starting from the top of the mound of rice in the pot, gently spoon the rice onto the center of a serving platter to form a mound. After each spoonful, fluff the rice in the pot before transferring the next spoonful. Continue until you reach the near bottom of the pot where you may find a crunchy layer of rice; leave it in the pot for now. If using saffron, add 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of cooked rice to the prepared saffron water and stir to evenly coat. Sprinkle the golden yellow grains of saffroned rice garnish on top of the mound of rice in the serving platter, then serve.
If using a nonstick pot, invert a round serving platter (slightly wider than the diameter of the pot) on top of the pot. Firmly grab both the serving platter and the pot and carefully but quickly flip them over together. Lift off the pot. The entire tahdig should have released from the bottom of the pot onto the serving platter in one piece. If you have not used a non-stick pot, there is still a chance that the tahdig may come out in one piece. Run a thin, flexible silicone spatula around the bottom of the pot to gently separate the edges of the tahdig from the side of the pot. Go around a couple of times, each time a bit deeper between the tahdig and the bottom of the pot. If you can feel that the entire tahdig has come loose, use the same flipping technique described above for a nonstick pot. If the tahdig is still stuck to the bottom of the pot (which is common), use a spoon or flat spatula to remove the tahdig in as large of pieces as possible. Arrange the crispy, beautiful, irresistible tahdig pieces on a separate small plate or arrange on the same serving platter as the fluffy rice.
1 hour 35 minutestotal time