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Tahchin: Persian Rice Cake; What Is It, And How To Make It - LemonSalt

Tahchin: Persian Rice Cake; What Is It, And How To Make It

Tahchin is a traditional Persian rice cake that has its roots in ancient Iran. It has been enjoyed for generations and today, it continues to be a beloved treat across the Iranian diaspora worldwide. Whether it's part of religious ceremonies such as Nowruz, or simply an afternoon snack, tahchin often brings with it fond memories and lots of smiles. In this blog post, we'll explore what exactly tahchin is and how to make it at home! Regardless of where you're located – you can bring the flavour of Persia right into your own kitchen.

Tahchin is made with layers of saffron-infused basmati rice, yoghurt and eggs, and is traditionally baked in the oven to create a crispy golden crust (tahdig). Translated, “tah” means bottom and “chin” means layer. This Persian dish is sometimes referred to as “rice lasagne” or “Persian lasagne” because of the layers which can be filled with other ingredients like meat.

What's the difference between Tahchin and Tahdig?

Both dishes can include variations like adding herbs or using different types of fat for flavour, making for an incredibly flavourful side dish or main meal. They look quite similar as both dishes have a crispy bottom, but include different ingredients and methods of cooking.

Tahchin is a Persian layered rice cake that is made by baking saffron-infused basmati rice in the oven. It's usually made with yoghurt and often topped with barberries or cranberries, nuts, and/or grated carrots. 

Tahdig on the other hand is a crispy golden crust of crisp basmati rice that forms at the bottom of your pot while cooking Persian-style steamed white rice. It’s also made with butter and saffron, but it’s much thinner than a tahchin — typically just one layer — and not baked in the oven like a tahchin. 

Are there variations of Tahchin?

Variations of Tahchin can be found throughout the regions where it is popular, each showcasing the delicious flavours of Persian cuisine. Some variations include adding herbs, such as dill, mint and parsley, to the mixture before baking; replacing the yoghurt with cream for a richer flavour; adding meat layers between the tahchin or even making individual tahchins rather than one large one. 

Another variation is to make an egg-free Tahchin by replacing the eggs with a combination of ground walnuts and potatoes. This creates a creamy texture that pairs well with the saffron-infused rice. For extra flavour, some recipes suggest adding butter to give it richness, sautéed onion for more depth, or pomegranate seeds for additional sweetness. 

Whatever variation you choose, tahchin is sure to become a delicious mainstay in your kitchen! Whether served warm or cold, this classic Persian dish will have your taste buds dancing with delight.

Is there meat in Tahchin?

While traditional Persian tahchin is typically a vegetarian dish made from saffron basmati rice and yoghurt; often flavoured with barberries, pistachios, or almonds; you can add meat to it, or serve meat with it on the side. 

A meat variation of tahchin called Tahchin Morgh (or Tahchin Kabab) is also popular in Iranian cuisine. This version involves the addition of minced chicken, lamb, beef or fish to the rice mixture before baking to create a savoury meal. Tahchin Morgh is usually served alongside grilled meats such as kabab koobideh or joojeh kabab and can be garnished with dried barberries and roasted nuts for extra flavour and texture. The addition of meat makes it a hearty meal suitable for any time of day - breakfast, lunch or dinner!

What is tahchin served with?

It is traditionally served as a main dish or side.Typical accompaniments for Tahchin include leafy greens such as spinach or kale, crunchy vegetables like carrots or radishes, and creamy dressings like tahini or labneh. Other popular sides include grilled meats such as chicken kebab or beef shish kebab, along with fruit compotes and pickles. 

Tahchin can also be served with Persian tea or hot drinks like chai to balance its savoury flavours. Generally speaking, the variations of Tahchin depend on the region in which it's made; saffron Tahchin typically includes more sugar and spices than other versions.

Homemade Tahchin

Making your own Tahchin at home is quite simple, the basic ingredients you need are rice, eggs, yoghurt, salt and pepper. You can also make it your own by trying new flavour combinations, add meat, nuts or berries. For added flavour you can add saffron threads to the rice before cooking to infuse it with flavour. 

Tahchin Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 
  • 1/4 cup plain yoghurt or sour cream (for a richer flavour) 
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, (optional for a saffron-infused Tahchin)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional) 
  • Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro and dill (optional) 

How To Cook Tahchin:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper.

  2. Start by washing two cups of basmati rice in cold water for several minutes until it runs clear. Once washed, add the rice to a pot with four cups of water, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool. 

  3. In a large bowl whisk together two eggs, one cup of plain yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt), one teaspoon of ground turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. If desired you can also add 1/4 teaspoon of saffron which will give your Tahchin a more traditional flavour profile

  4. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in yoghurt or sour cream until it starts to bubble around the edges, usually about 2 minutes.

  5. Once all the ingredients are prepped you can assemble your Tahchin by adding the cooked basmati rice to the egg-yoghurt mixture and stirring well so that everything combines into an even consistency.
  6. Grease a medium-sized baking dish with oil or butter then spread the Tahchin mixture evenly and pressing lightly with your fingers or spoon - this will help it hold its shape when baked in the oven. If desired, sprinkle some chopped fresh herbs on top of Tahchin before baking for extra flavour and texture. 

  7. Once the oven has preheated, insert your tahchin and bake until the top is golden brown (about 80 minutes). 

  8. Hold both sides of the dish and flip the tahchin over onto a board or baking tray to reveal the crispy bottom (now the top). Drizzle melted butter over top of Tahchin if desired before serving warm or cold. 

With roots in Iranian tradition, it’s no wonder this dish has stayed a popular favourite over the years. Tahchin is a great way to enjoy your favourite Persian ingredients in an easy-to-make dish. A wonderful combination of flavours and aromas makes it something that's sure to please everyone at your dinner table.

It's perfect for a quick dinner, as it can be served warm or cold, and makes a great side dish for any meal. Not only does this Persian dish taste amazing, but its versatility makes it so convenient for meal prepping during the week and for taking on picnics on the weekends.  So, why not gather up some of your favourite ingredients like spiced meats or vegetables and whip up a delicious tahchin as your next meal – you won't regret it!

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