Iranian culinary style, also known as Persian cuisine, has a long history and it is strongly influenced by the country’s neighboring regions. In fact, several of Iran’s famous dishes originated from Greece, the Middle East, Turkey, and Russia. These dishes commonly use dairy products, fresh herbs, and fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins.
Typical Iranian main dishes are a combination of rice with meat, lamb, chicken, or fish and onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. In special dishes, saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are often added to give them unique and subtle flavors. Tah chin (“rice cake” in Persian) combines saffron, chicken, and yogurt to create an exotic blend of decadence and extraordinary flavor. It is traditionally served on special occasions such as weddings and family reunions.
500 grams basmati or other long-grain rice
1 kilogram chicken, cut into desired pieces
300 grams yogurt
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup rose water, optional
2 to 3 pieces large onions, peeled
3 to 5 cloves garlic
black pepper powder
red pepper powder
parsley for garnishing
• Wash uncooked rice in a pot with water. Do this three times. Add enough water to cover the rice. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and soak for 15 minutes.
• After soaking for 15 minutes, remove the water.
• Boil the water in a pot. Add the soaked rice when the water starts boiling. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove any foam that forms on top while cooking.
• Take a grain of rice and squeeze it with your middle finger and thumb. The rice is parboiled if you do not feel any hardness. Remove from heat. Place the rice in a strainer and drain the water. While the rice is in the strainer, pour water over it to reduce stickiness.
• Place the chicken in a pot and add onion, garlic, salt, and turmeric. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Cook for 30 minutes.
• When the chicken is tender, take the chicken from the pot. Remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Set aside.
• Remove the onion and garlic from the pot. Put in a bowl, add some broth, and mash them. Set aside.
• Add half a cup to one cup boiling water to the saffron. Set aside.
• Put the yogurt in a pan and add eggs, cooking oil, a pinch of turmeric, black pepper powder and red pepper powder, 1 tablespoon of salt, half a cup of oil, the saffron dissolved in water, and the mashed onion and garlic. Mix all ingredients well.
• Add the shredded chicken and rice, and mix well.
• Cover and cook for about 45 minutes.
• After 10 minutes, add 3 tablespoons of rose water (optional).
• Wrap the lid with a clean towel or cloth, and cover the pan to absorb the water forming from the steam.
• When done, invert the pan on a dish.
• To serve, cut into wedges and garnish with parsley.
Iman is working on his PhD in human nutrition at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He joined the Grain Quality and Nutrition Center at IRRI in 2012 and worked on research under the global rice core collection. His work included rice metabolomic experiments and the development of predictive models based on the results of those experiments. Currently, he is working on iron biofortification in rice.
Cooking is a relaxing and enjoyable hobby for Iman. As a nutritionist, he likes to add new twists and variations to traditional dishes. His favorite cuisines are Middle Eastern, Indian, Russian, Uzbek, and Thai. Tah Chin chicken, based on his grandmother’s recipe, is his favorite Persian dish.