Steamed Rice with Egg and Saffron Crust

Recipe and photo from Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham Klein (Tuttle) Yield:  8 servings
Prep Time:  10 minutes Cook Time:  1 hour

Steamed Rice with Egg and Saffron Crust

A process that involves soaking, parboiling and steaming results in lovely, tender rice in this recipe from Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein (Tuttle). This process will add two hours of inactive soaking time to your preparations. Paper toweling helps with the steaming, so have some on hand. The tardegih—the crispy crust that forms at the bottom of the pot—is a delicious, sought-after treat.


3 cups long-grain brown rice, such as basmati

3 tablespoons salt

Pinch of saffron, dissolved in 3 tablespoons warm water (optional)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅔ cup oil, divided

2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch thick slices (optional)

6 cardamom pods (optional)

4 tablespoons water


  1. Wash and soak the rice according to the instructions below.
  2. Bring 8 cups water and the salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add the rice, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. Pour the rice into a strainer and rinse with slightly warm water. (If you are using white rice, boil for 5 minutes.) Set aside.
  3. If you are using saffron, let it steep in a small bowl of warm water until the color tints the water.
  4. Combine the beaten egg, pepper, steeped saffron water, and 1 cup of the al dente rice in another bowl. Mix to incorporate.
  5. Heat ⅓ cup of the oil in a saucepan set over medium heat. If using the potatoes, layer them evenly at the bottom of the saucepan. Then spread the egg-rice mixture over the potatoes, or directly on the bottom of the saucepan if not using potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium high heat. When it’s hardened into a golden crust, mound the remaining rice on top.
  6. If using cardamom, bruise the pods by placing each in turn on a sturdy, flat surface and rest the flat side of the blade of a large chef’s knife on top. Push down on the metal surface with the heel of your hand and lightly crush the cardamom pod until the outer husk cracks. Do not crush too completely, or the seeds will fall out. Then, with the handle of a wooden spoon, poke 6 deep holes into the rice. Place the bruised cardamom pods deep into the holes.
  7. Drizzle the remaining ⅓ cup of the oil and 4 tablespoons of the water over the rice. Then place 2 paper towels, one on top of the other, on the surface of the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Cover tightly with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer. (The towel will absorb the steam, preventing the rice from getting too sticky.) Cook, covered, over low heat for about 30 minutes (15–20 minutes for white rice). If the rice is not fully cooked, add another 4 tablespoons of water and cook for another 10 minutes, making sure the rice does not overcook.
  8. Scoop the rice from the pot with a wide spatula making sure not to disturb the crust, or tardegih, that has formed on the bottom. Serve the rice on a flat serving platter, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid. Remove the tardegih from the bottom of the pot, in pieces, and place them around the rice, before serving.

Kitchen Tips

Washing and Soaking Rice:

Rice should be washed and soaked before you cook it. Soaking is actually part of the cooking process; it softens the rice and allows the water to penetrate the grains. This prevents sticking and reduces cooking time. It also produces rice with a lovely, light texture, and releases enzymes that make it easier for us to absorb all the nutritional goodness in the rice. Soaking: Once the rice is washed, it’s time to soak. With the rice in the bowl, add enough warm water so that the rice is submerged by about an inch. Use the following soaking times unless directed otherwise in the recipe.

  • Long-grain brown rice should be soaked for 2 hours.
  • Short-grain brown rice should be soaked for 4 hours.
  • Long-grain white rice should be soaked for 30 minutes.
  • Short-grain white rice should be soaked for 20 minutes.


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