Covering 620,000 hectares of rice cultivation area, Iran is one of the rice-bearing countries across the world. Iranian rice is a favorite food of Iranians and they use it as an ingredient in many dishes. In fact, Iranians are very proud of the rice they produce and believe that the rice cultivates in other countries doesn’t match Iranian rice. Rice cooking is one of the basic qualities of a good cook in Iranian culture. Basically, cooking rice in a way that is neither too watery nor too dry is the main concern of Iranian chefs.
Characteristics of well-cooked rice
In Iranian culture, well-cooked rice is characterized by relative softness and full-length expansion. In fact, each rice grain must be distinct from the other grains without being sticky. For having a dish of well-cooked rice, there are some things to do. First the cook should be well aware of the amount of water and oil that they added to the rice. In the next step, the cook must be aware of the sufficient heat that they use to cook rice. Cooks must also cover the pot with a lid that fits it very well. Finally, cooks should know when to take the pot off the oven to let it cool down.
Before going for cooking, however, chefs should be well-aware of the properties of the rice they buy. Rice is grown in almost all agricultural cities of Iran. Although the rice grains cultivated all over the country are the same, not all Iranian rice share the same flavor and fragrance. In fact, the water and soil that farmers use for rice cultivation, as well as the climatic conditions of the cultivation area can affect the rice flavor, taste and cooking procedure. Therefore, before learning how to cook Iranian rice, Iranians need to know the premium rice characteristics.
A variety of rice cultivars exist in Iran, but the rice cultivated in northern Iran is one of the best. Iranians know that the recently harvested rice is not deemed premium before it is one year old. In fact, the older cultivated rice is the better and more delicious. Low quality rice is characterized by the amount of water used to cook it. In other words, low quality rice requires lower amounts of water while high-quality rice requires higher amounts during cooking.
Rice Cooking methods in Iran
In Iran, rice is made in three different ways: Kateh, Chelo, and Cooked (In a rice cooker). In Kateh, the quantity of water and salt is dependent on the quality of rice. After pouring water to the pot and adding some salt, we leave the pot on the stove until the water evaporates. In the next step, we turned down the stove and let the rice in order to slowly cook. In Chelo cooking method, however, we first soak the rice in water and salt for a few hours. Then we pour the rice into boiling water for a few minutes and sieve it afterwards. Finally we rinse the sieved rice with cold water.
Having said that, we soak some kind of rice overnight and some other for only 3 to 4 hours. The duration of soaking depends on the rice type and age. Old rice will have a better quality if soaked for a longer period. However freshly cultivated rice may lose their quality if soaked for a long period of time.
Rice cooking and eating constitutes a basic part of Iranian food culture. Premium restaurant brands are characterized by the Iranian rice they serve. Similarly, the high-quality rice hosts or families serve in parties is a sign of their hospitality. That’s why rice is usually a must when Iranians invite someone over.
In Iran, Saffron is also a must additive when serving Ploo. Iranians mostly use this additive when they invite a guest or go to a restaurant for a meal. In each case, saffron is deemed a necessary ingredient by the host or restaurant owner.
Another remark about culture consuming of rice is that Iranians used to serve rice in different ways. For instance, we added egg yolk to the rice and mixed well before serve it. But today you can rarely see someone having their rice with egg yolk. Instead, melted butter is still popular as an additive in rice-based foods. That’s why the rice in most Iranian restaurants usually comes with a bar of butter, especially when kebab accompanies it.
You, as a tourist, have definitely had rice in your country. In your trip to Iran, however, you might find a large number of rice-based dishes as meal. Iranian polo is a must unless you are allergic to gluten or other dietary supplements. Iranian rice definitely sticks out in your memory as the best rice you have ever had throughout your life. Before picking a restaurant, however, you’d better consult your tour leader to make sure about the quality of the rice. Thanks to its high quality, Premium Iranian rice is usually very expensive. And that’s why many replace Iranian rice with Indian rice which is neither tasty nor healthy.