Before you begin to think about cooking any Persian rice dish, there are a few essential things you need to know about rice.
Polou or Chello?
- In it’s uncooked form rice is called berenge.
- Chello is rice that has been soaked in salted water and par boiled. Polou is rice that has been through the previous stage of boiling and is then steamed. Polou ( if you get it right) is fluffy separate grains of rice and is not sticky.
- Kateh is rice that has been cooked in boiling water until the water has disappeared. This is a little wetter and can be a little sticky.
- Dami is like kateh but has other ingredients added like Estamboli Polou or Addas polou.
- Taadig is the crust which forms at the bottom of the pan if you cook the rice long enough over a low heat.
- There are many different grades of rice and you need a medium to good quality. You can buy many cheaper grades of rice but you will need to experiment with the amount of time you soak it and boil it for.
- Always, always wash the rice in water under a running tap until you see the water run clear. It carries a lot of dust and sometimes other things! Although with good quality rice the ‘other’ things shouldn’t be an issue.
- With most recipes you will need to pre soak the rice. There are a few exceptions. The soak time will depend on the quality of the rice you use. You can experiment with other brands.
- I recommend ‘Mahan’ or ‘Safar’ which is available in most Iranian grocery stores but there are some good alternatives such as ‘Tilda’.
Dont worry if the uncooked rice isn’t brilliant white. Larger commercial companies sometimes bleach the rice to make it look more attractive. Usually though it’s a little yellowish in colour but it will turn white when cooked.
Rice cooker V traditional method?
A rice cooker is a free-standing electrical appliance for cooking rice. The traditional method of cooking rice is time-consuming and requires your focused attention throughout the whole process. A rice cooker simplifies the process by automatically adjusting the temperature and timing and leaves you free to do other things. Once you have added the correct amount of water, it will need no further attention.
It’s not an essential to have a rice cooker but it sure is handy. If you practice, the rice you produce from your rice cooker can be every bit as delicious as the results you get from the traditional long method. It’s even possible to make polou with additional ingredients in it.
I can’t personally recommend any particular brand and I’ve owned many rice cookers. They come in a range of sizes and that is probably the most important consideration to think about. In the UK rice cookers cost roughly from £25 upwards. They are easily found in electrical stores, some supermarkets and any good Iranian Grocery store will stock them.
My personal preference is the traditional method when possible. I use my rice cooker when I’m tired or feeling lazy, need space on my cooker or when I havent got enough time.