The first time I ate Persian food, about 13 or so years ago at Maykadeh in North Beach, Kourosh and I were on maybe our third date. He was born in Iran (he came to the U.S. in ’79), and he wanted to introduce me to Persian food. I was eager to try it—I was eager about everything when it came to this handsome Persian, and I wanted to impress him by being WORLDLY. Alas, he was the first Iranian person I’d met in my life, and the first person I’d heard speak Farsi. And Persian food was super foreign-tasting to me—so different from other Middle Eastern and Asian foods I’d eaten. He suggested I order fessenjoon, which I ate enthusiastically—I mean I was not going to admit that the flavors were totally weird to me.
Lots has happened since. Fessenjoon is now a favorite and Mr. Handsome is the cook in our family. Persian food is a special part of his repertoire. I appreciate it even more now having witnessed how complicated the dishes are to make. Despite having experienced his mom’s cooking daily all his young life (lucky guy), he’s still mastering the recipes—mainly because there aren’t really recipes. His mom creates works of delicious art from memory and Persian magic.
Specifically, the rice. It has been VEXING. Persians have a million different types of rice, every one of which makes you wonder how rice can be so delicious. Usually, there’s also tadig (ta-deeg). It’s created (partly, there are many steps) by coating the bottom of the pan with oil, yogurt, potatoes, butter or a combination thereof to made a luscious, crispy slab of rice that they tell me Iranian children fight over. Good looks can help you in a lot of categories, but not with tadig. Kourosh could not find the correct combination of heat, pan thickness, and ingredients—for years. During visits to his (also very good looking) family in SoCal over the years there would be much discussion with his mother (a tadig master) in Farsi about tadig technique. Then we would come back to San Francisco and there would be cursing. The rice would either burn, or the crust wouldn’t form.
But last week, it happened. The most perfect tadig I’d ever seen. The Italian friends we were hosting that evening seemed confused by our excitement over what appeared to be overcooked rice. But I’d never seen such a fully-formed disc of tadig, even from his mom. It really was quite exciting and a proud moment.
Not that it will do you any good, but here’s a recipe for rice with tadig that’s similar to Kourosh’s. If you try it, let me know how it goes!