Tah-Chin (Upside-Down Persian Rice Cake)
I came to Sydney in 2008 to do my masters degree, where I was living until my recent relocation to Melbourne. I never considered myself much of a cook back home in Tehran, but living away from my native metropolis, I’ve found myself slaving away in the kitchen more often, reproducing my favourite Persian dishes- such as Tah-Chin.
1 large onion, chopped
700g chicken fillets (breast or thigh)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 large or 2 small eggplant/s
2 cups basmati rice
1/3 cup (4 tablespoons) plain yoghurt
1/3 cup (4 tablespoons) olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon to fry
1/2 teaspoon saffron
Barberries* and sugar, to garnish
1) Place the onion in a pot with the chicken fillets, two cups (500ml) of water and turmeric. Cook over a medium-high heat for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then chop the chicken into large dice and set aside.
2) Peel the eggplant and cut into 1cm-thick slices. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and sauté eggplant until golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
3) In a heavy-bottomed pot, add rice then fill with water until the rice is covered by about 1.5cm of liquid. Bring to the boil and cook until rice is slightly undercooked and still has some bite. Drain the rice in a colander.
4) In a bowl, add yoghurt, remaining oil and eggs and mix to combine, then add the drained rice and mix again. Dissolve saffron in 1/8 cup (30ml) boiling water, add to the rice mix and stir until the whole mixture is a unified yellow colour.
5) Lay 2/3 of the rice mix in the bottom of the same pot in which the rice was boiled. Top with the chicken first, then the sautéed eggplant slices, and cover with the remaining rice. Cover pot with its lid, place over medium heat and cook for 1 hour or until bottom of the rice has browned – check the (inside) sides of the pot to see if the rice is getting darker and harder in texture. The rice in the centre should be cooked and soft. You may need to leave it cook for longer or a bit shorter depending on the type of pot you are using.
6) When the rice has gone a bit crispy and golden on the sides, remove from heat, put a plate large enough to cover the pot on top of it and turn the pot upside-down.
7) In a small pan, add a large handful of barberries with an equal amount of sugar (about 1/4 cup each), and then an equal amount (again, about 1/4 cup) of water. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and mixed with berries. Use the berries to dress the crispy top of the upside down rice and serve.
* Barberries are from Middle-Eastern stores.
For more on Sahar’s story and Persian cuisine, see our feature story here