Chelow (Persian Steamed White Rice) Recipe

why it works

  • Excess surface starch is removed in two steps: the dry rice is thoroughly washed and pre-cooked, resulting in fluffy granules.
  • Steaming the rice eliminates the need to find the exact ratio of rice to water and ensures consistently perfectly cooked rice without being soggy or undercooked.
  • By seasoning the rice with salt until it is cooked, the salt permeates each grain and makes it even more delicious.

Over the centuries, the Iranians’ love of rice has resulted in extraordinary refinements in rice cooking methods and countless ingenious rice dishes. Chelow, a traditional Persian steamed white rice typically served with braises, stews and grilled meats, is the most prized of all. It is fragrant, light and fluffy, with each grain of rice separated from the next, and is snow-white, although a little saffron is often added to enhance it.

Early foreign explorers who traveled to Iran as far back as the 17th century wrote extensively about the exemplary nature of Persian-style rice dishes. Reliable modern culinary experts are of the same opinion. For example, in his influential book On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McGee, who elaborates on the chemistry and history of food science and cooking, writes: I can cook rice. ”

The main techniques behind chelow are:

  • Long grain white rice is thoroughly washed and soaked in water to hydrate the rice and remove the surface starch that causes the rice to clump.
  • Underboil the rice for a few minutes until partially cooked.
  • Cook the rice again with gentle steam. This ensures perfect cooking without the risk of having too much or too little water in the finished dish.

Some may find this preparation to be a bit of work, but the small extra effort is well worth it as you will be delighted with the excellence of the results. The procedure becomes second nature.

persian rice culture

Archaeological evidence suggests that rice was first introduced to the Iranian plateau about 3,000 years ago, but the continued cultivation of belenji (برنج), the Persian word for rice, , which dates back to around 500 BC during the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia and continues today. Documents from the Persian Sasanian dynasty (224-652 AD) indicate that rice became a minor player in the culinary customs of the Persian court, but it was not until the 16th-century Safavid period that rice cooking has become more elaborate. More sophisticated and more diverse.

The method of cooking rice in Iran and the larger Persian community around the world is uniquely different from that in other “rice cultures” around the world. increase.

Serious Eats / Nader Meravali

Unlike in many parts of Asia, rice is not the most important staple food for most Iranians, but bread. Persians generally hold rice in high esteem, so they are more likely to cook something else than settle for a lesser quality variety. Also, guests can’t eat without at least one plate of fluffy rice. In fact, most of the time, guests will find multiple rice plates on the souffle, on the table, on the floor, or on the cloth spread out on the ground outside where the meal is served.

The chelow recipe detailed here is not only an essential rice dish in its own right, but is also the basis for many other traditional Persian rice dishes such as tardig. Polow, a class of fluffy rice dishes flavored with a variety of cooked meats, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. Turchin is a category of cake-like rice dishes in which savory meat is wrapped in rice seasoned with a crunchy outer layer.

Tahdigs are not only a desirable by-product of creating chelows, they are also almost unavoidable (technically, there are ways to avoid generating tahdigs, but we discourage people who deliberately avoid tahdigs). I do not know). Although chelows and tahdigs are actually closely related, this article and recipe will focus on techniques and details for making chelows more generally. I have written a separate article and recipe, but focusing on the art of turdig and some popular turdig variations. While the recipes have a lot in common, the two headnotes are quite different, with Turdig’s recipe providing more detail on how to achieve that much-needed layer of crispy rice.

How to choose rice

The use of long grain white rice is essential to making chello. Long grain rice has the advantage of being soft rather than hard when cooked properly. Among the long-grain rice varieties, the best types to use for chelow are the ones grown in Iran, or the basmati varieties grown in India or Pakistan. Aged for 1 year. The aging process helps dehydrate the rice, causing it to swell more when cooked than other types of long grain rice.

Rice grown in Iran is very expensive and very difficult to find outside Iran, so an equally good alternative is high-quality, aged, extra-long-grain Basmati rice grown in India and Pakistan. The word basmati means ‘fragrant’ in Hindi. Good, mature white basmati rice has a slightly pale yellow color. Virtually every grocery store in the United States carries at least one brand of Indian or Pakistani basmati rice, but physical and online markets in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Middle East offer a much wider variety and variety. If you can find a better price. Rice keeps very well when stored in cool, dark, and dry conditions.

Serious Eats / Nader Meravali

You can also find US-grown basmati rice at your local grocery store. American rice is generally not aged, so it is not as big as the Iranian and Basmati varieties of India and Pakistan. Also, never use processed rice (rice that has been partially cooked and then dried before removing the husk) to make chelows.

Unlike many commonly used cooking ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, etc.), which are somewhat standardized regarding the type of rice required in this recipe, different bags of the same item show different cooking behavior. may be brand. As I was preparing to write this article, I made multiple batches of chelow from several different Basmati rice brands, taking detailed notes about each batch. had as much as a 15% difference in yield and cooking time. So if you are in the habit of buying 10 or 20 lb (5 or 10 lb) bags of rice (which I do), you should take note when making chelow or other rice dishes from new bags. I have. Rice.

Essential Chelow Technique: Wash and Soak Rice

One of the secrets to making fluffy Persian rice is to wash the rice thoroughly before cooking. Rice that is bagged or scooped out of bulk containers is usually covered with a fine, starchy dust that collects during processing and transportation. remove the If you don’t wash the rice, it will cook well with the starch in the flour, resulting in a fluffy texture. Regardless of the type of rice, there are other benefits to washing the rice before cooking. Washing the rice removes dust, sand, and other unwanted foreign matter. Especially if the rice comes in a traditional burlap bag, it can affect the taste of the cooked rice or be noticeable when eaten. Start rehydrating the rice grains, which is the step of

Serious Eats / Nader Meravali

Washing benefits all long-grain rice varieties, but you need to be more selective about the type of rice you soak and the soaking time. Historical records dating back to the 16th century clearly show that Iranian cooks soaked rice in well-salted water for long periods of time, often overnight. I myself have vivid memories of my childhood in Iran of a pot of rice soaked in water with a large block of rock salt sitting in the kitchen overnight in preparation for cooking the next day. soaking is suitable for certain long-grain rice grown in Iran, but Indian and Pakistani basmati rice has a slightly softer grain than Iranian rice and requires a much shorter soaking time. .

Soaking allows the rice to absorb moisture, allowing it to cook more evenly during the parboiling stage, and making the grains longer and plumper during the steaming stage. On the other hand, salting the steeping water allows the flavor to come out from the inside of the rice.

Soaking has the added benefit of preserving some of the rice’s fragile natural aromas. Cooked Iranian and basmati rice smells similar to pandan leaves, in both cases due to the aromatic compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline. Iranian and Basmati rice have higher levels of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline compared to other rice varieties, but levels of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline decrease during cooking. When the rice is cooked, the scent will not remain. Soaking the rice in water rehydrates the grains before heat is applied, reducing overall cooking time and keeping 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline levels high.

Chelow essential equipment

Chelow doesn’t require much in terms of special equipment, but there are some important details to note about the equipment you use.

  • Colander: Regular vegetable colanders are not suitable for straining rice because the large holes allow the rice grains to slip through. Hand-held fine-mesh strainers are also not suitable due to their small capacity. What you need is a large, independent, small hole drainer. If you buy new, get the largest that will fit in your sink. The larger the colander, the more pressure the parboiled rice will spread and the more it will be at risk of breaking. , it can even get caught in the holes of a colander with small holes.)
  • pot: You can make chelloux in virtually any type of pan, but there are a few things to keep in mind. The pot should be large enough for the rice grains to float and move around freely while the water boils vigorously. That means a 6 quart pan for at least 3 cups of rice and a 4 quart pan for 2 cups. Otherwise, the rice grains will not swell and stretch properly. The same pan that was used for parboiling is usually used again for steaming in the second stage of cooking. The second cooking stage forms a layer of chewy rice called tardig, a Persian dish, on the bottom of the pan, regardless of the type of pan used. Then you can easily scrape out the crunchy layer.
  • Towel wrap lid: Covering the pot with a towel-wrapped lid during the steaming stage is an ancient Persian cooking method. It was such an important technique that there is a Persian word for a towel-wrapped lid. It is called damkoni. There are elastic damconi fitted pot lid covers that fit over pot lids (aka Persian rice bonnets) available online. They do the job, but it’s the same as using a clean, thick kitchen towel. Risk of fire.

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