“Tadig” you say – you’ve never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I met some adventuresome Israelis. You can spell it tahdig, tah-dig, or tadeeg. But what it means is YUM. Although if you want to get technical “tah” in Persian means under and “deeg” means pot. Tadig refers to the process of making something crunchy at the bottom of the pot – most often it is the rice itself, but when you want to make special dishes you can put potatoes, onions, broken up matzah (over Pesach, or all year round), triangles of pita, lettuce, and I’ve even heard of making pasta this way.
It is (apparently) a widespread procedure used in Persian cooking. Basically, the bottom layer gets crunchy and the top layer gets steamed. In the following recipe we made rice and lentils with a layer of potatoes on bottom (adapted from “Persian food from the non-persian bride” by Reyna Simnegar).
This recipe is outstanding. Last Shabbos we had a Persian special, and after consulting a few of my Persian friends, we came up with a delicious menu. This dish, in particular, stood out.
And as an added bonus, while researching this dish we got a lesson in spelling. Did you know that turmeric is spelled with an extra “R”? I’ve always pronounced it “tu-meric.” However, this spelling is missing a crucial “r” that comes after the “u”. Who knew? Did you? I am shocked. Shocked, I say. Is it pronounced ter-mer-ic? And I’d like to point out, I had plenty of opportunities to correct this misconception – my spice bottle clearly says turmeric and the recipes say turmeric. I suspect it’s because the first “r’ does seem to blend into the “m”. It’s hard to see. And everyone says “tu-meric”. That doesn’t help. I just figured out where the “r” came from – sherbet.
Adas Polo – Rice with lentils and Caramelized Onions and Tadig
- 3 cups jasmine rice
- 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons salt (egad! – don’t worry, most of it gets drained off)
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 cup oil (ack! – again don’t worry – it gets drained off)
- 1/2 cup brown lentils
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 onion, caramelized
- canola oil
- 2 tablesoons water
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 3 potatoes peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
To cook the rice:
- Fill a 6 quart sauce pan with 8 cups of water, add oil, salt and turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Meanwhile make the topping: in a small saucepan bring the water and lentils to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium/low and cook for 7 -10 minutes or until the lentils are al dente. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
- If you don’t have pre-caramelized onions – julienne an onion (cut in long strips horizontally). Place 1 tablespoon of oil (and 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric, if you like) in a saute pan and saute on low/medium for about 30 minutes. Stirring every once in awhile to prevent burning. You can add 1/8 salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar for flavoring, if you would like.
- When the turmeric water boils, add the rice and continue cooking uncovered over medium to high heat.
- After 3-5 minutes check to see if the rice is al dente (can use a slotted spoon). Turn off the heat and pour rice into a colander to drain and set aside.
- Gently stir cooked lentils into the rice in the colander.
To steam and make the tadig:
- Place the empty 6 quart saucepan back onto the stovetop over medium heat. Add 1/4 inch oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add turmeric and stir.
- Add sliced potatoes in a single layer. The thinner the potatoes the quicker they will brown/burn – a little thicker and they’ll hold up better to the heat and will get crispy without burning.** Add the drained rice and shape it into a pyramid. Cover the pot and cook for 5-7 minutes until rice begins to steam.
- Uncover and place 2 paper towels (one on top of the other) over the rice, the ends will extend outside the pot (make sure the paper towels are safely away from the heat).
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and tilt the lid until ready to serve. The goal is that the potatoes are crispy and browned (the tilting of the lid lets the steam escape – thus preventing sogginess).
- Pile the rice and lentils on a platter and put the potatoes on top and then the caramelized onions on top of that.***
**In my research, other recipes call for cooking the potatoes for 4 minutes and then turning the potatoes over in the oil. Then pile the rice and continue cooking as before.
***Apparently in Persian households the tadig would be put on a separate plate and served at the end of the meal as a “meal ender” (i.e. once the tadig comes out – that’s it and there is no more). However, I liked putting the tadig on top of the rice – it looks nice and it’s good to eat with the rice. However, if you want to be authentic, you can put the tadig on a separate plate. Also, if you are having trouble getting the tadig out you can place the bottom inch of your rice pan in cold water for 5 minutes to loosen the crust.
Enjoy! We liked it so much, we’ve made it a lot since we’ve first heard about it. We’ve made it with potatoes, onions and just rice on bottom. We’ve made it with lentils, other beans, and as a one pot meal “cake” – where the bottom and top are rice and the middle is a filling of fish, onions and cranberries (you can also put a filling of beef or chicken).