Dana Slatkin

Persian Saffron Brown Rice Your Way

Persian Saffron Brown RiceEver since Starbucks took personalized beverages mainstream, we have become a culture of customization. We love designing our lives from top to bottom, from our homepages to our shoes. You can even put your photo on a bikini (try it on Anymatic) and create your own energy bars. We just can’t seem to get enough of having it our way.


So it’s no surprise that dinner in my house is a customized affair. And I don’t mean that everyone gets to order their own meal. But to insure that each of five appetites is satisfied, I have to deconstruct dishes down to their components. Grains, vegetables, protein and sauce each go into separate serving bowls. Then everyone can concoct a personalized feast.

This fragrant brown rice needs no embellishment but welcomes add-ons. The irresistible golden crust known as tah dig (or tahdeeg) is what Iranian cooks stake their reputations on. Because it takes careful technique to pull it off, I turned to Najmieh Batmanglij, the Ina Garten of Persian cooking. Her encyclopedic chapter on rice in Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies makes we wonder if we’re not the only ones obsessed with customizing.

There are two ways to cook the Chelow, or saffron steamed rice, the first being the more traditional stovetop method, which yields the thickest and crispiest tah dig. The rice cooker method requires less attention and is surprisingly easy to master. Though long-grain basmati rice is more traditional, brown basmati is my preference for a more rustic whole-grain spin. Turn it onto a serving dish, slice it into wedges, and serve it as a base for just about any sautéed or grilled vegetable or a meatless stew (see the ideas at the bottom of this recipe).

It’s that rare recipe to please all appetites. And if bespoke is the new black, I’m in.

You might also like these whole grain recipes:

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Photo credit: Bon Appetit

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  4. lyric says:

    Thanks for this recipe esp. With brown rice!

  5. ChannonD says:

    I am so excited to finally find a Tahdig recipe using brown rice. I am wondering about one thing that is absent from this recipe: Yoghurt. Do you opt not to use dairy? In the recipes I have read from Persian cooks, they mix yoghurt in along with the saffron water. Have you ever tried this method? Does it affect the overall cook time?

  6. Dana Slatkin says:

    Thanks for your comment! I have not tried a Tahdig with yogurt cooked in with the rice. Very interesting! I usually serve this with Persian Cucumber Salad (recipe on the blog), which is made with drained yogurt, cucumber, currants and dill. I put a huge dollop on top of the cooked rice and sprinkle the whole thing with slivered dried apricots and roasted pistachios. Enjoy!

Please share your thoughts!