Chelow (Persian Steamed White Rice) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Extra floor starch is eliminated in two levels, as soon as when the dry rice is washed totally and once more when it’s parboiled, leading to fluffy, separate grains.
  • Steaming the rice eliminates the necessity to discover a precise rice-to-water ratio, guaranteeing persistently completely cooked rice that is neither soggy nor undercooked.
  • Seasoning the rice with salt all through the cooking course of ensures the salt penetrates every grain, for extra scrumptious remaining outcomes.

Over the centuries, the Iranian love of rice has led to extraordinary refinements in rice preparation strategies and myriad ingenious rice dishes. Chelow, conventional Persian steamed white rice that is usually served alongside braises, stews, and grilled meats, is probably the most esteemed amongst them. It’s aromatic, mild and fluffy, with every grain of rice separate from the subsequent, and snow-white, save for a little bit of saffron typically added to reinforce it. 

Early overseas explorers who traveled in Iran way back to the seventeenth century wrote intimately concerning the exemplary nature of Persian-style rice dishes. Trusted modern culinary consultants are of the identical opinion. For instance, Harold McGee, who has written extensively concerning the chemistry and historical past of meals science and cooking in his seminal e book, On Meals and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, wrote that he considers “Iranians, maybe, probably the most refined rice cooks.”

The precept methods behind chelow are:

  • totally washing and soaking long-grain white rice to hydrate the grains and take away floor starches that may trigger the rice to clump;
  • parboiling the rice for only a few minutes till it’s partially cooked;
  • cooking the rice a second time with light steam, which brings it to excellent doneness with none threat of there being an excessive amount of or too little water within the completed dish.

Some might discover this preparation a bit elaborate, however the modest extra effort is effectively price it as you can be delighted by the excellence of the outcomes. After making it a couple of times, the steps concerned grow to be second nature.

Persian Rice Tradition

Whereas archaeological proof suggests rice was first launched to the Iranian Plateau roughly three thousand years in the past, the continual cultivation of berenj (برنج), the phrase for rice in Persian, dates to round 500 BCE in the course of the Persian Achaemenid dynasty and continues to the current time. Though paperwork from the Persian Sassanian Dynasty period (224-652 CE) present rice having grow to be a minor participant in culinary habits of royal Persian courts, it wasn’t till the Safavid Dynasty period of the sixteenth century when rice preparation had grow to be extra elaborate, extra refined, and with elevated selection.

Rice cooking strategies in Iran and the bigger Persianate communities world wide are uniquely completely different from rice preparation in different “rice cultures” of the world. Furthermore, Iranians’ mindset about rice additionally differs enormously from different cultures.  

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari

In contrast to in lots of components of Asia, rice is just not probably the most important staple meals for almost all of Iranians—bread is. Persians usually have such a excessive regard for rice that they are extra prone to cook dinner one thing else than accept lower-quality varieties. On the identical time, nonetheless, no visitor—stranger or acquaintance, buddy or foe—is acquired for a meal with out at the least one dish of steaming fluffy rice. The truth is, most frequently visitors will discover a number of rice dishes on the sofreh, the material that’s unfold on a desk, on the ground, or on the bottom exterior upon which meals are served. 

The chelow recipe detailed right here isn’t just a necessary rice dish unto itself, but in addition the bottom of many different conventional Persian rice delicacies corresponding to tahdig, the scrumptious, buttery, golden, crunchy, spherical layer fashioned on the backside of the rice pot; polow, a category of fluffy rice dishes flavored with a variety of cooked meat, greens, dried fruits, and nuts; and tahchin, a class of cake-like rice dishes the place savory meats are encased in flavored rice with a crunchy outer layer.

Tahdig, it must be talked about, is just not solely a fascinating byproduct of constructing chelow, but in addition a virtually unavoidable one (technically, there are methods to keep away from producing tahdig, however I do not know of anybody who would keep away from tahdig on function). Although chelow and tahdig in apply go hand-in-hand, this text and recipe will deal with the methods and finer factors of constructing chelow extra usually; I’ve written a separate article and recipe solely targeted on the art of tahdig together with a handful of fashionable tahdig variations; the recipes have a lot in frequent, although the 2 headnotes are completely completely different and the tahdig recipe goes into far more element on find out how to additional excellent that coveted crispy layer of rice.

Selecting the Proper Rice

Utilizing a long-grain white rice is important for making chelow. Lengthy grain rice has the benefit of turning into tender whereas staying agency and separate when cooked correctly. Amongst long-grain rice varieties, one of the best varieties to make use of for chelow are these grown in Iran or basmati varieties grown in India or Pakistan. Each are usually aged for at the least one 12 months earlier than being despatched to the market. The getting old course of helps to dehydrate the rice, which in flip causes it to broaden when cooked greater than another kind of long-grain rice. 

For the reason that rice grown in Iran may be very costly and intensely onerous to search out exterior of Iran, an equally good various is top quality, aged, extra-long-grain basmati rice grown in India and Pakistan. The phrase basmati is derived from Hindi language that means aromatic. Good, aged, white basmati rice has a slight pale-yellow colour. Though virtually all grocery shops within the US carry at the least one model of Indian or Pakistani basmati rice, you will see that a a lot wider selection and infrequently higher costs in Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, and Center Jap brick-and-mortar and on-line markets. The rice retains fairly effectively if saved in cool, darkish, and dry circumstances. 

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari

Additionally, you will discover basmati rice grown within the US in your native grocery shops. American-grown rice is usually not aged, and due to this fact doesn’t broaden as a lot as Iranian or basmati varieties from India or Pakistan. Think about US basmati rice a final resort. Additionally, by no means use transformed rice (rice that’s partially cooked earlier than the husks are eliminated after which dried) to make chelow, as that par-cooking will trigger bother with the two-stage cooking approach required for correct chelow.   

With regards to the kind of rice known as for on this recipe, not like many generally used culinary substances (flour, sugar, salt, and so on.) which were considerably standardized, you could discover completely different cooking conduct from bag to bag even from the identical model. As I used to be making ready to put in writing this text, I made a number of batches of chelow from a number of completely different basmati rice manufacturers whereas taking detailed notes about every batch. The cooking conduct of the seven rice manufacturers that I had used differed in yield and cooking time by as a lot as 15%. Subsequently, in case you are within the behavior of buying 10- or 20-pounds (5- or 10-kilograms) baggage of rice – which is what I do – it is best to take notes when making chelow or another rice dish from a brand new bag of rice.

Key Chelow Methods: Washing and Soaking the Rice

One of many secrets and techniques to creating fluffy Persian rice is to totally wash the rice earlier than cooking. Bagged rice, in addition to rice scooped out of bulk containers, is usually lined with a high quality starchy mud that collects throughout processing and transportation. Totally washing the rice earlier than cooking removes this floor powder. Should you don’t wash the rice, you find yourself successfully cooking the rice together with that powdery starch, leading to a texture that’s mushy and gooey. No matter the kind of rice, there are different advantages to washing your rice earlier than cooking. Washing rice helps take away mud, sand, and different undesirable overseas particles, significantly in case your rice is available in a standard burlap bag, that may impression the style of the cooked rice or could also be noticeable when consuming it. Washing additionally kicks off the hydration of the rice grains, which is basically step one of cooking. 

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari

Whereas washing advantages all long-grain rice varieties, it’s a must to be extra selective about which forms of rice to soak and for the way lengthy. Historic data courting again to the sixteenth century clearly point out that Iranian cooks would soak their rice for an prolonged time frame—typically in a single day—in effectively salted water. I actually have vivid childhood reminiscences in Iran of pans of rice soaking in water with a big chunk of rock salt sitting within the kitchen in a single day in preparation for subsequent day’s rice cooking. Whereas such lengthy soaking practices are acceptable for sure long-grain rice grown in Iran, Indian and Pakistani basmati rice, whose grains are a bit softer than Iranian rice, wants a a lot shorter soaking interval.

Soaking provides the rice an opportunity to soak up water, permitting for extra even cooking in the course of the parboiling stage, in addition to extra elongated and fluffier grains in the course of the steaming stage. Salting the soaking water, in the meantime, helps to taste the rice from inside.

Soaking affords an extra profit, which is that it preserves among the rice’s fragile pure aromatics. Cooked Iranian and basmati rice has a scent much like that of pandan leaves, in each circumstances attributable to the aroma compound 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline. Iranian and basmati rice have larger ranges of 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline in comparison with different rice varieties, however the stage of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline decreases throughout cooking. The longer the rice cooks, the much less of this aroma will stay when it is completed. By soaking the rice, we’re in a position to get a jumpstart on hydrating the grains earlier than warmth is ever utilized, shortening the general cooking time and holding 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline ranges larger.

Important Gear for Chelow

Whereas chelow would not require a lot by way of specialised tools, there are some essential particulars to notice concerning the gear you employ:

  • The Colander: Most peculiar vegetable colanders will not be acceptable for straining rice, as rice grains will slip by the massive holes. Handheld fine-mesh strainers are additionally not acceptable due to their small quantity. What is required is a big, free-standing small-hole colander. If you will purchase a brand new one, get the most important one that matches in your sink: The bigger the colander, the extra the parboiled rice can unfold out and the stress it would placed on itself, risking breakage. (Observe, although, that you’ll use a fine-mesh strainer when rinsing the uncooked rice, because the grains at that time are so skinny that they will even get caught within the holes of a small-hole colander.)
  • Pot: Though you can also make chelow in virtually any kind of pot, there are some things that you could be need to bear in mind. For the parboiling stage, the pot measurement is extra essential than the kind of pot. You need a big sufficient pot to permit the rice grains to drift and transfer round freely by themselves whereas the water is boiling vigorously—that is at a minimal a six-quart pot for 3 cups of rice, or a four-quart pot for 2 cups of rice—in any other case the rice grains won’t swell or elongate correctly. Sometimes, the identical pot that had been used for parboiling is used once more for the second steaming stage of cooking. Through the second cooking stage, no matter what kind of pot is used, a layer of crunchy rice known as tahdig, a Persian delicacy, is fashioned on the backside of the pot. A well-seasoned cast-iron or glazed Dutch oven will make it simpler to scrape out the crunchy layer. A nonstick pot will let you get the tahdig out in a single piece.
  • Towel-Wrapped-Lid: Masking the pot in the course of the steaming stage with a towel-wrapped-lid is an historical Persian cookery approach. It has been such an essential approach that there’s a phrase for the towel-wrapped-lid in Persian language. It’s known as damkoni (دمکنی). There are damkoni-fitted pot lid covers with elastic that slip over pot lids (a.ok.a. Persian rice bonnet) which you can buy on-line. They do the job, however they’re no higher than simply utilizing a clear, thick kitchen towel. Simply watch out to not let the towel hold down the aspect or the pot, which might create a hearth hazard.

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