Persian Crispy Rice & Lamb Kebabs (Polo Tahdig & Koobideh)
During our trip up to Tofino, we watched a show with Bob Blumer, you know, the Surreal Gourmet guy, where he faced off with 2-3 Chinese chefs in Vancouver in a Xiao Long Bao battle. Dumplings themselves are challenging and forming them quickly and consistently takes practice — yeeeeeears of practice. And, as you’d expect, for most of the show, Bob was no good at folding dumplings. I felt like Bob Blumer today going into making this Persian rice.
Eh, what’s so hard about rice? Regular steamed rice? Nothing. But, this rice? This rice has a beautifully crunchy, saffron and turmeric-scented crust, and like those dumplings, getting it just right and out of the pan in one piece takes a little practice. You want it beautifully browned, but not burnt. That crispy bottom is “the treat.” You know how you hold your breath when you’re tapping a cake out of a cake pan or releasing something from a mold, waiting for that tell-tale plunk or suction-y sound that says it’s out in one piece? That was me with this Persian rice.
It takes a few steps, first soaking the rice in salted water for two hours, then briefly boiling it, then separately creating the crispy bottom followed by a final steam for 40-45 minutes. It’s worth it.
I adapted PersianFoodie’s recipe, dialing back on the salt and saffron (I used Spanish saffron, since it’s what I had on hand). I don’t know if the dishtowel (see recipe below) is really necessary for the steam if you’ve got a tight-fitting lid, but it was mentioned in more than one recipe, so I went with it. But I also stayed with the pot, just to make sure nothing caught on fire.
The rice did come out in one piece, but had a couple of funny dents since I didn’t get it quite centered on the plate. I’ll call it not bad for a first go.
By comparison, the lamb (and partially beef) kebab that went with, the koobideh, was a breeze. I just had to find the spice mix everyone says you’ve got to use — the Sadaf Meat Kebab Seasoning mix. It’s a combo of onion, garlic, sumac, parsley, salt, pepper, tumeric and “other spices.” Following Sadaf’s recommendation, I used 1 oz. of seasoning mix to 2 lbs. of meat, in my case 1 1/2 lbs. of ground lamb, 1/2 lb. ground beef. It seemed like a lot of seasoning going in, but turned out delicious.
We had a simple cucumber, red onion, parsley, and mint salad dressed with white wine vinegar and olive oil and a little yogurt and lemon dipping sauce.