Chelow – Basic Persian Rice



Persian people love their rice grains long and not sticky. They also like eating their rice with a crispy bottom. In fact, the bottom, Tah Dig, is the favorite part of the rice dish. Tah Dig in Persian means the bottom of the pot. Persian cook’s expertise is often judged by how good their Tah Dig is.

Cooking rice Persian style is art. It is a multi-step process of removing the starch and steaming the rice, which results in grains that are separate from each other and are perfectly cooked. There is a reason for every step in the process, so don’t be tempted to skip steps or take short-cuts. The result will not be the same.


3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
5 teaspoons salt
8 cups water
½ cup oil or butter
1tsp saffron threads dissolved in 5 tablespoons of boiling water for an hour
½ cup water
2 tablespoons yogurt (optional)
2 medium russet potatoes sliced into 1/2inch slices (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)



Place the rice in a large bowl and cover with tap water. Mix it using your hand to separate the starch from the rice grains. Discard of the water and repeat the process two more times.

Cover the rice in the bowl with warm water and 2 teaspoons of salt and leave for 3-5 hours. The salt helps keep the rice grains from breaking, and helps in separating them from one another. Drain the rice well.

In a large non-stick pot, bring 8 cups of water and 3 teaspoons of salt to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 8 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the rice twice while cooking, to loosen clumps of rice.

Drain the rice in a large strainer and rinse it with lukewarm water.

Return the pot to the stove and let all the remaining water in it evaporates. Add ¼ cup oil. Once oil is hot, add the rice to the pot by mounting it in an upside-down cone shape. Using the tip of the wooden spoon, make 4-5 holes around the pot to allow water to steam.

In a small bowl, mix ½ cup water, ¼ cup oil and the saffron water. Drizzle it over the rice in the pot. Place a clean towel on the inner side of the pot cover, and cover the pot, folding the ends of the towel on top of the lid. That will ensure that steam doesn’t escape the pot.

Cook over low heat for about 45-50 minutes. DO NOT open the lid during cooking time. Remove from the heat, and still keeping the pot covered, let it cool down for 10 minutes.

If you would like to make the Tah Dig, there are two ways to make it, with and without potatoes.

After you drain the half cooked rice, heat ¼ cup oil in the pot. In a small bowl mix 4 heaping tablespoons of rice with half the saffron water, and 2 tablespoons of yogurt. Spread it to cover the bottom of the pot and press it down. Mount the rest of the rice on top, shaped as an upside-down cone, and continue as specified above.

Alternatively, if you want to add potatoes, heat ¼ cup oil in the pot together with 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Once the oil is hot, cover the bottom of the pot with the potato slices pressed against each other, and let it fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice and yogurt mixture and spread it on top of the potatoes, pressing the rice down a little. Add the rest of the rice on top, shaped as an upside-down cone, and continue as specified above.




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