Rice plays an indispensable role in the Persian culture. Along with bread, it is a staple food all over Iran and the entire Middle-East. In this post, we have compiled all the information on the best Persian rice for you. From the history of rice in Persia to the best Persian rice brands and varieties to the best Persian rice cooker and recipes – here you will find all the information.
The history of rice in Persia
The first mentions of rice in the area of today’s Iran were around the 4th century. At this time, rice was imported from India. However, it hasn’t been the popular staple food at that time as it is today. During the early Islamic period in the region in the 8th century, the consumption of rice became more popular and the first mentions of rice cultivation in Iran come from that time. With the rise of the Safavid Empire in the 16th century, rice became even more popular.
Iranian rice is mainly produced in northern Iran, close to the Caspian Sea. Gilan is the most significant Iranian rice producing province. About 25% of the farmlands in this region are paddy fields. The territory of Gilan yields 50% of the total national rice harvest. The cultivation period begins from late March and harvest starts in April and May. The women of the region put in relentless efforts to grow the rice and provide a superior quality. After harvesting, Persian rice should be stored for at least a year before its consumption for the best taste. In addition, a large amount of rice is also imported from other countries to meet the high national demand.
Best Persian rice brands
Especially for Iranians living outside of Iran, it can be hard to find the ideal rice brand that reminds you of the taste you are familiar with. Many overseas Iranians of our team have had the same issue and we asked them to share their favorite Persian rice brands with us.
If you are planning to prepare Persian rice, it is necessary that you know which brands to go for. A lot depends upon the quality of the rice, its texture, size, et al. Picking the right brand will help you to achieve the perfect flavor and aroma. Here are some of the Persian rice brands that will never disappoint you:
Dunar is of the best brands of Persian rice. It is a very aromatic basmati rice variety with long grains. Ideal for traditional Persian rice dishes such as Kateh, Dami or Polow. Several members of our team suggested this brand as their favorite Persian rice brand. Especially because the grains are so fluffy while still keeping a good consistence after cooking.
Zaika manufactures delicious long-grain white Basmati rice. The grains are quick to cook and are ready in five to seven minutes. The grains are long, light, and fluffy and you can enjoy them in no time. Therefore, it remains one of the favorite rice brands among our Persian staff members. This is the perfect Iranian rice brand if you only have little time on your hands.
Smoked rice is a very popular rice variety in Iran. Atry produces some of the best quality smoked basmati. It has a distinct smoked flavor, and the grains are relatively long. The cooking time of the grains can be twice as long than of regular basmati brands. Just keep boiling it until the texture of the grains is soft around the edges and firm in the center.
If you are looking to try something unconventional, this is the brand to go for. As the name suggests, this is brown basmati rice and has different properties. The rice is chewy, has a nut-like flavor, and takes much longer to cook. The grains often split open. Several of our stuff mentioned this brand as their absolute favorite. As a plus, it also comes in a beautifully designed rice bag.
Best Persian rice cooker
The secret to Persian rice is the “Tahdig”. Tahdig is the golden, scorced section of rice at the bottom of the pan. In a pan, the tahdig can be achieved by letting the rice slightly burn into the pan at low to medium heat. It requires some experience and skills as well as the right pan to create a crunchy and tasty tahdig instead of a layer of burnt black rice. If you are not an expert in cooking Persian rice but don’t want to miss out on the taste experience, a Persian rice cooker is a great solution. It will take care if the Tahdig for you.
Therefore, next to a samovar tea maker, a special Persian rice cooker is one of the must have items for a Persian household. A normal rice cooker won’t do it since it will only steam the rice without Tahdig at the bottom. The voices of our staff were quite unanimous when we asked them to share the best Persian cooker brand with us. Nearly all of them recommended either a rice cooker from PARS or from PARS KHAZAR.
PARS is our favorite Persian rice cooker brand. It creates an incredibly tasty Tahdig crust on the bottom of the rice without burning it. The features that we especially like are the timer function as well as the automatic shut-off and keep-warm functions. The pot is non-sticky and really easy to clean. Thanks to the custom timer, you can also decide to make your tahdig a little more or less crunchy – just the way you like it. This is definitely the best Persian rice cooker we can recommend.
Another great option for an Iranian rice cooker is the Pars Khazar rice cooker. It also comes with a non-sticky pot to make sure you won’t have a hard time cleaning it. With its convenient intensity control, you can also decide how dark and crunchy you like to have your tahdig.
Best Persian rice recipe
Independent of the dish they are served with, there are three ways of cooking rice in the Persian cuisine. Let’s have a look at them.
Polow and Chelow
Chelow is nothing but plain rice which is served as an accompaniment to a kebab or stew. Polow, on the other hand, is plain cooked rice mixed with other ingredients. These can be herbs, vegetables or even meat. Therefore, polow is a full dish in itself but often served as a side dish.
Kateh is the traditional dish of Gilan province. Plain rice is cooked in a pot with salt and some vegetable oil. Is is cooked slowly for around 50 minutes. While cooking, it will create a delicious, slightly scortched crust at the bottom.
Dami is almost as same as Kateh, only that a handful of ingredients such as beans and grains are added. A special type of dami is tachin, which is a mixture of chicken or lamb, yogurt, rice, egg yolks, and saffron.
Below is a step-by-step instruction to cook Chelow, one of the best Persian rice dishes
- 4 cups of good-quality basmati rice
- 4 tbsp of salt
- 8 cups of water
- Vegetable oil
- One flatbread (Lavash, Pita, or Tortilla)
- Vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp of bloomed saffron as garnish
- Take a large bowl and pour the rice and wash it until the excess starch leaves. Pour cold water, add salt, and set it aside to soak for at least two hours, up to a day.
- Take a large non-stick pot, and bring the 8 cups of water to a boil on high heat.
- Drain the cold water from the rice and pour it in the boiling water.
- Bring the water to a boil again on medium-high heat, and cook for about 20 minutes. Make sure the grains are long, soft on the outside, while the center should remain a little hard.
- Drain the rice and rinse it thoroughly with cold water.
- Take the rice pot and add vegetable oil or butter to the bottom. Make sure that it covers the entire base and then gently place the flatbread.
- Take a large spatula to put the parboiled rice into the pot over the bread; make sure it stays away from the sides. It should look like a pyramid. Make 4-5 holes in the rice with the bottom of the spatula to release the steam.
- Cook the rice for 7-10 minutes until the rice starts to steam. After that, put two tablespoons of vegetable oil and add ¼ cups of water over the rice.
- Take a kitchen towel to wrap the lid and put the lid firmly on the pot. Cook the rice for 30-40 minutes on low heat.
- When the rice is cooked, scoop out some amount from the top and mix it with bloomed saffron in a bowl and set aside.
- Serve the rice on a platter and sprinkle some saffron on top. Gently take out the Tahdig from the bottom and serve it on a separate plate.
- You can serve the Chelow as a part of the main course with Persian kebab and stew.
Different varieties of Persian rice
Local Persian rice comes in different varieties, and each one of them requires a different cooking method. The most famous Persian rice varieties are:
- Gerde rice
- Domsiah rice (black tail)
- Champa rice
- Doodi rice (smoked rice)
- Lenjan rice
- Tarom rice
If you are living in a Persian household or want to dive into the Persian cuisine, you will encounter many dishes with rice. Having the right rice brand and rice cooker is essential to create the best Persian rice. We hope our recommendations have helped you out. Let us know in the comment section if you have any questions or recommendations.
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