Rice is the most commonly eaten food in Iran. There are two main kinds of rice that have a vast number of varieties in Iranian cuisine: Polow and Chelow. Polow consists of vegetables or meat cooked and mixed with rice that makes delicious and popular dishes such as Loobia Polow (Rice with Green Beans) and Adas Polow (Lentil Rice), whereas Chelow is a plain rice that is steamed and served beside different kinds of kebabs and stews such as Joojeh Kebab, Gheimeh, Ghorme Sabzi and Fesenjan.
Rice preparation is like an art in Iran and unlike the majority of countries it is not only boiled, but also steamed and topped with saffron. In this recipe I have tried to cover all the tips and tricks you need to know for making a perfect Persian rice, which is a white fluffy rice with the grains well separated and not stuck to each other.
In a large bowl, rinse rice several times to remove any excess starch out of the grains. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear. While rinsing be careful to not touch or massage the grains too hard cause it may break the grains.
Fill bowl with lukewarm water again and add 2 tablespoon of salt. Allow rice to soak for about 20 minutes while you boil water.
*The soaking time depends on how old the rice grains are. The older the rice, the more soaking time. For the Basmati rice sold in supermarkets 20 minutes is enough, but in Iran usually rice grains are older so they need at least 3-4 hours of soaking.
Add water to a large pot until half of its depth and bring it to a boil. Drain rice and add to boiling water.
The most important step in the process of cooking rice is the boiling time. If it boils less than needed the rice that you will have at the end will be hard and uncooked in the center. If it boils more than needed, at the end you will have a mushy rice and the grains will stick together. It is risky because it takes few minutes for rice to change from hard to mushy. But don't worry! here is a tip to help you:
After 5-7 minutes of boiling test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be hard in the center and soft on the outside. Also another way to see if it's ready to drain is that you will see the rice gains starting to come to the surface of the water. When it is ready to drain you should have something that looks pretty close to this picture.
When rice is ready to drain, add one cup of cold water to the pot so it stops boiling. Then drain it and set aside for a minute while preparing the pot.
Rinse out the pot that you used to boil the rice and place it on medium-high-heat. Add 2 tablespoon of oil to the bottom of the pot and wait until it heats up a little bit. Now you can add slices of potato or just use the rice for the bottom. Carefully transfer in the par boiled rice into the pot. Place the rice in a pyramid shape but be very gentle to not break the grains.
Reduce heat and cover the lid of the pot. Mix 2 tablespoon oil with 4 tablespoon water. Wait 1-2 minutes and then remove the lid and add it on top of the rice.
Again cover the lid, but this time before putting the lid on put two pieces of paper towel or a clean towel over the pot first and then place the lid. Allow it to steam for 45 minutes.
Add 4 tablespoons of hot water to the ground saffron and let it brew while the rice cooks.
When rice is ready, take a couple of spoons out of the pot and into a mixing bowl. Add the saffron mixture to it and give it a mix until rice turn from white to yellow.
Now spoon the rice on a serving platter and top it with saffron rice.