Curb Your Crunch…Tahdig

Tahdig arr

Pita crust.

There’s something to be said about unforgettable experiences. For me, life-altering moments most definitely include food.  Snacks are no exception, and Persian tahdig is a must!

What exactly is this delicious phenomenon? Tahdig, pronounced tah-deeg, is the ultimate crunch and munch fix, if you ever had one; and, given daily stressors one encounters from having to balance a hectic student, family and/or work life, I can empathize. When translated, ‘ta’ means ‘bottom’ and ‘dig’ refers to pot; tahdig is essentially the crust of a principal food item.

Tahdig can be made using various ingredients, but is prepared following the same method. Always found on the bottom of the cooking pot, tahdig is traditionally a part of the cooking process of rice or spaghetti, both made the Persian way –cooked beyond the ‘al dente’ state. Given the desire to cook both grains for a long period of time, the crust serves as a barrier between the heat of the pot and rice or pasta to avoid burning.

Potato crust and raisin saffron rice.

Potato crust with raisin saffron rice.

Depending on the meal itself, you can have crusts of unique tastes and textures. To clarify, you may enjoy rice, bread, potato or lettuce crust with your main dish. The common denominator of all crusts resides in its preparation. With both rice and pasta dishes, the grains are par-boiled, strained in a colander, temporarily set aside. The following step, for all crusts, involves covering the bottom of the pot with oil (oil, vegetable, etc.), upon which you add varying ingredients.

Sabzi Polo Tahdig arr

Lettuce crust with ‘sabzi polo’ (herbed rice).

Let the magic begin! When making herbed rice, for instance, romaine lettuce leaves are torn into pieces, by hand, then used as the base prior to reintroducing par-boiled herbed rice, and topped off with a lid to complete the cooking process. The end result is a crispy and highly aromatic lettuce crust due to being embedded with fresh herbs (dill, coriander, parsley, fenugreek, chives), initially used to flavour the rice.In like manner, bread crust is formed by covering the bottom of the greased pot with pieces of pita whereas rice crust is formed by pouring the par-boiled grains directly into the pot. As seen in the photo, bread crust is fried to a state of golden perfection; crisped grains make rice crust just as crunchy. Finally, potato crust reveals the best of two textures; a creamy interior on one side and a biteful exterior. Following the same method, place sliced raw potato rounds onto the pot before adding the par-boiled spaghetti.

Sometimes, reality can bite! Good news is it doesn’t have to. So, why not make your next rice or pasta dish one worth eating? Treat yourself to tahdig, a satisfying crusty treat you’ll be happy to chew on.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

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