With the way that people talk about making tahdig, you’d think that they were talking about reading Ulysses or something. Not that I would really know for sure since I am about 100% positive that I will die without having read Ulysses but I’ve felt the size of it and I’ve heard Eggboy talk about it and at this moment in time that is the best comparison I can think of because both require time and patience, and 30% of the time, you fail.
When you do succeed though you’re rewarded, of course. Not necessarily with fireworks and instagrammability, but with satisfaction and maybe some street cred?? They’re beasts. One would take me 10 years to finish, another, it turns out, you can do in an evening so long as you focus and have the right tools.
Tahdig is a Persian dish that consists of the crispy layer of rice that forms at the bottom of the pot. It’s often flavored with saffron and can also be made with vegetables or bread. It is so good and I can’t believe it took me until 2017 to make it for the first time. I think I first heard about it from Naz at the Saveur awards back in 2014. I remember her talking about how much patience you need to make it and how exciting it is when it works. I love her post about Tahdig, where she compares it to a coy lover. Ok maybe that’s better than Ulysses. A while back in New York, a few friends attempted it for our Shabbat potluck but I remember them not being so satisfied with how it turned out. It’s just so hard to tell when the crispiness forms and then once you flip it out, I don’t think you can crisp it up anymore. In Berlin, Sophie and Xenia turned out like 12 perfect Tahdigs in a row, it was super human and they all looked like gorgeous yellow cakes destined to sop up short rib juices. Shortly thereafter I had a miniature tahdig at Zahav with their legendary braised lamb, and then finally it was time to make it at home.
It was not a total failure but, you’ve seen my little stove coils, they can only heat so much and tahdig requires a very even heating element. So I tried it out in my mini cocottes and it worked for a few but then got fussy when I tried to make 30 of them for a dinner party. It was actually really traumatizing and I didn’t make tahdig for a long time after that. I kind of came to the conclusion that my go-to cast iron pots weren’t necessarily the right option for tahdig and started creeping around the internet for alternatives. Anytime tahdig would come up on my IG feed, I’d kind of stalk the account to see if they posted the pot they made it in…
And then a few months ago Alana started raving about her GreenPans and how nonsticky and easy to clean they were (I think she has become my new kitchenware curator btw), so when GreenPan got in touch to work on this post I figured I’d better at least try a Tahdig in one before making any decisions, so I did and guess what! I nailed it the first time. And the second, third, etc., etc. The coating on the pans is not only so nonsticky that the tahdig practically slides out of the pan and into my mouth, but it also heats so evenly that I can use their 12” pan on my 8” coil and still get an evenly yellow saffrony ghee-y crust. And it doesn’t contain the crusty nonstick stuff that peels off and kills u. I am hella sold. (the pan i'm using is part of their 10th anniversary set and it's on sale rn!) I know Alana likes making eggs in them and now that it’s fall I’d like to try making caramel for my apples in them but for now I’m just really glad to have filled the void in my life that was a perfect Tahdig pan.
Let’s talk about why this Tahdig is different from all other Tahdigs: In a shakshuka-inspired move, it’s got poached eggs all up in it. “Just because it has poached eggs doesn’t make it a shakshuka” wrote Jeff after I IG-ed it. It spurred a long argument that is still not over. He thinks it is more similar to Maqluba and that shakshuka requires a sauce. My argument was that even though most shakshukas have tomato sauce, shakshuka isn't required to have tomatoes or even a sauce (see: green shakshuka). darya said it might be similar to mirza ghasemi! which i've never had but sounds delicious. What do you think? I love shakshuka and I also love this dish and definitely feel like shakshuka doesn’t really need to have tomato sauce… but… tomato tomahto?
This dish is crispy rice, eggs, and a party full of toppings. I basically just pulled a bunch of pretty things from my garden and threw them on top. I would def recommend topping this with at least pickled onions, fresh lemon juice, herbs, and tomatoes if you have them. Feta was also great! But you can really go wild and use whatever toppings you have on hand. This recipe makes a big batch and is perfect for a brunch party. And seriously with an even nonstick pan like this one, you can go confidently in the direction of tahdig, even on your first try.
makes 6 servings
540g basmati rice
1/8 tsp saffron
3 tb ghee
for topping: black pepper, crushed red pepper, fresh basil and mint, pickled onions, lemon wedges, feta, chopped scallions, chopped tomatoes, other herbs/cheeses/sauces as desired
In a large bowl, cover the rice with enough water so that it comes up a couple inches above the rice and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the rice and then rinse it well. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Boil the rice until it’s soft on the outside but still has a bite on the inside, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking.
Crush the saffron using a mortar and pestle and then dissolve it in 3 tablespoons boiling water.
Heat a 12” lidded nonstick Greenpan over medium high heat and add the ghee and the saffron water and swirl it around so it coats the pan evenly. Add the rice and pack it down firmly with the back of a spatula, making a pyramid shape in the center. Use the handle of a spatula to poke a few holes in the rice, stopping right before you get to the very bottom of the rice. Carefully cover the skillet with a clean dish towel and then the lid, folding the corners of the towel up around the lid so they don’t touch the stove (if you’re working with a gas range, you may want to fold the towel up around the lid before putting it on the skillet to be extra careful that your towel doesn’t get in the flame). Cook on medium high for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium low. Carefully uncover the pot, keeping the cover level so that any moisture collected under the towel doesn’t spill out and burn you or fall back into the rice. Using a spoon or spatula, create 6 egg-sized divots about an inch apart and crack in your eggies. Cover (you don’t need the towel for this step) and cook until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny. Top with black pepper, crushed red pepper, fresh basil and mint, pickled onions, a few squeezes of lemon juice, feta, chopped scallions, chopped tomatoes, and/or other herbs/cheeses/sauces as desired, and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Thank you GreenPan for these pans and for sponsoring this post and for making the perfect Tahdig pan! the lidded one pictured is part of their limited edition 10th anniversary 5-piece set ($59.99) which includes a smaller 10” pan, a bamboo spatula, and a recipe book, and all greenpans are 20% off from 9/15-9/24. greenpans have a ceramic nonstick coating, thermolon, that is made from a sand derivative. it is high heat resistant and won’t ever peel off or emit harmful fumes.
All photos are by Chantell and Brett Quernemoen!