FoodCooking mastery from Iran: delicious journeys into the heart of kateh, nourishing art of rice

Cooking mastery from Iran: delicious journeys into the heart of kateh, nourishing art of rice

The text "Kateh" is a proper name, so it will not be translated.
The text "Kateh" is a proper name, so it will not be translated.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | HLPHOTO

2:44 AM EST, February 1, 2024, updated: 4:34 AM EST, March 7, 2024

Archaeological findings suggest that the Iranian region of Mazandaran, located on the Caspian Sea's shores, began cultivating rice as far back as 3,000 years ago. Today, this area is notable for its vast rice plantations. The rice from Iran's Caspian Sea provinces is esteemed for its superior taste, making it a favorite among accomplished chefs.

For centuries, nutritious grains have been a vital part of the local diet. With time, the locals have become specialists in preparing them. A key dish in Iranian cuisine is kateh, which is rice processed to become sticky and buttery in taste. It can be enjoyed on its own as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to other dishes, particularly meat dishes. Notably, kateh is easy to prepare.

What kind of rice is used?

At the core of kateh is rice, which is the primary food for one-third of the world's population. There are currently about 150,000 types, all stemming from two primary species: Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima, originating from Asia and Africa, respectively.

Rice is categorized in various ways, typically by grain size. In culinary settings, long-grain rice is particularly valued for its "separate" cooking feature. The best variety for preparing kateh is basmati, an aromatic and delicate type, recognized by semi-transparent grains that elongate during cooking, while taking on a subtle sandalwood aroma.

Often recommended in many diets, basmati rice is low in calories and glycemic index, and it is a source of protein, fiber, carbohydrates, B vitamins, potassium, and phosphorus.

Jasmine rice is also suitable for the Iranian speciality. Native to Southeast Asia, it is sometimes called Thai. The term "jasmine" refers to the long, snow-white grains' resemblance to the highly-scented shrub flowers. While cooking, they emanate a pleasant and delicate fragrance similar to jasmine's scent.

Jasmine rice comes in two varieties: brown and the more common white. The former is richer in nutrients as the grains only have the inedible husk removed. They are an abundant source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, offering substantial amounts of B vitamins, potassium, and phosphorus.

How to prepare kateh

Start by pouring rice, either basmati or jasmine (3 cups), into a non-stick pot. Wash with cold water and drain. Repeat this process two more times.

Next, add cold water (4.5 cups), clarified butter (4 tablespoons), and sea salt (1.5 teaspoons). Cover the pot and cook the rice over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed by the grains. Remove the pot from heat and set it aside.

Now, prepare the tahdig, which is a saffron crust that will form on the surface of the kateh. In a small dish, combine an egg yolk, natural yogurt (0.33 cup), and a pinch of saffron. Mix this mixture with the already cooked rice (1 cup).

Heat clarified butter (4 tablespoons) and vegetable oil (2 tablespoons) in a saucepan. Once the fats start to sizzle, add the rice-yogurt mixture, spreading it to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add the remaining rice and cook over medium heat for 45-50 minutes.

To finish, place a large plate on top of the pot and gently flip the dish - the crispy bottom should now be on top. Enjoy!

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