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Persian Rice

Posted in Food & Entertaining

I call it crusty rice but no google search will spew up anything under that moniker. Its proper name is Tah Dig or, in English, a more poetic Golden crust rice. If well prepared, it’s a delicious mixture of fluffy rice, herbs and a crunchy crust, which is the best part. So much more satisfying than plain steamed or even fried rice. The problem is that it takes a bit of trial and error before getting the hang of it, which is why I don’t make it often. It is definitely more labor intensive than putting some rice in a cooker and forgetting all about it. But the rewards are worthy.

My first meal of Spring turned out spectacular, in the way some meals do when everything aligns properly, even if assembled at the last minute. The trout filled with herbs, walnuts, orange juice and pomegranate molasses was the most tasty I ever had; the kale with tomatoes and Ancho chile (ok, more Mexican than Persian) a nice change from my standard roasted vegetables but it was the rice that crowned everything. We just couldn’t stop eating it.

I believe the original version calls for dill and cilantro, two herbs I am not fond of, so I used parsley. Turmeric can be used in place of saffron, to which I am partial. Make the rice before you start making the rest of the meal so that, while you are cooking your protein or vegetables, you can turn the pan for even browning, every 10 minutes or so.

RECIPE – serves 6

2 C Basmati rice
5 T Butter, divided
2 Leeks, finely chopped
pinch Saffron, diluted in a couple of spoons of warm water
1 C Parsley, finely chopped
3 T Greek yogurt
3 T Neutral oil, like canola or grape seed

  1. Rinse the rice under cold water four or five times, until the water runs clear, and then let the rice soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Cook the rice in plenty of heavily salted water for about 7 minutes, until the rice is firm and al dente.
  3. While the rice is cooking, fry the leeks in a couple of tablespoons of butter, on medium heat in a large cast iron skillet (you can use a non stick pan too). Add a pinch of salt and cook until the leeks are tender but not brown. Wipe the skillet clean.
  4. Drain the rice and place it in a large bowl. Add the leeks, saffron and parsley. Taste and add salt if needed. Remove about a cup of rice and mix it with the yogurt.
  5. Place the skillet back on the stove, on medium heat, and add the remaining butter and the oil. When the butter is melted spread the rice-yogurt mixture in a thin layer, then pile the rest of the rice on top. Using the handle of a wooden spoon make 5 holes around the perimeter and a hole in the center. You should see the oil bubbling underneath. If the sides look dry, pour a little bit of oil on the sides. Let cook for 10 minutes, turning the skillet a quarter turn halfway through.
  6. Wrap a lid with a kitchen towel and cover the skillet. Keep cooking for another 30 to 45 minutes, turning the skillet a quarter of a turn every ten minutes or so. Check the rice after half an hour. It will be ready when the rice is fully cooked and you can see a golden crust underneath.
  7. To unmold, run a spatula around the sides to make sure the crust hasn’t stuck to the bottom of the skillet: gather your courage and invert quickly on a platter. Serve immediately.

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  1. Claudia, it’s like you read my mind (again)! I was given a small amount of saffron the other day by the gentleman who manages our local Vietnamese restaurant, and I was looking for a nice recipe to use it with – definitely pinning this! Then I’ll take some to the nice man 🙂

    March 23, 2017
    • Pretty good use for it. And how nice that someone would give you some saffron for no reason! Kindness rules.

      March 24, 2017
      • Yes, I feel so grateful that people are still being kind, despite all the silliness going on in the world right now…

        March 25, 2017
  2. A couple of years ago I treated myself to a new cook book ‘Persiana’ by Sabrina Ghayour, it is absolutely fantastic and I have made many of the recipes in the book, all have been delicious.
    She has several rice recipes, and in two of them she advocates getting the ‘crispy crust’ you have in your recipe – she calls this crust ‘tahdig’ and it is so yummy!

    I do urge you to look at this book, it is beautifully produced with wonderful illustrations, it introduces a westerner to the wonderful food of Persia/Iran, and most importantly all the recipes are well explained and really work.
    My favourites from the book are: Kisir (a bulgar wheat salad to which I have become addicted!), Kuku Sabzi (a cross between a vegetable frittata and a bake), Joojeh Kabab (Saffron and lemon chicken cooked in the oven) and last but not least : Pistachio, Honey & Orange Blossom Ice Cream.

    March 22, 2017
    • I will definitely look for it. Thank you so much. I love Persian cuisine and I don’t cook it more often and it’s because I don’t have any cookbooks to inspire me when the urge strikes.

      March 24, 2017
  3. Two of the pharmacists I work with are Iranian, and we were talking a while ago about Persian food. They told me that most (if not all) Persian recipes are quite time-consuming. Worth it, but so much better if someone else has made it for you 😉

    I like the addition of “gather your courage” into the recipe, but I do wonder what the reasoning is behind putting holes around the perimeter and in the centre (?)

    March 22, 2017
    • The holes are meant to let some steam come up which, trapped by the kitchen towel, will cook the rice evenly (and the bottom won’t burn).

      March 24, 2017
  4. silvia

    Thank you baby

    March 22, 2017
    • Any time. Maybe by the time you are 90 I will have turned you into a cook….

      March 24, 2017

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