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Sholeh-Zard (Persian Saffron Rice Pudding) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Simmering the rice in loads of water till the grains are simply starting to interrupt down creates an extremely clean and creamy rice pudding.
  • Including a portion of the steeped saffron at the beginning of cooking permits the saffron’s yellow shade to infuse into the rice combination, whereas including the remaining saffron close to the tip ensures the dessert is scented with the saffron’s delicate aroma.
  • Soaking the almond slivers in rosewater softens them whereas infusing them with a delicate floral taste.

On the earth of Persian puddings and custards, sholeh-zard reigns because the queen. This rice pudding’s prized standing is most certainly resulting from its liberal use of saffron that offers the dish its distinct yellow hue and delicate earthy aroma, in addition to the pudding’s last ornate edible ornament that serves as a regal crown.

Whereas its esteemed popularity and elaborations make it a basic and cherished rice pudding among the many Persians, the preparation is definitely quite simple— requiring solely a single saucepan and a easy simmering approach. The rice is slowly simmered in loads of water, sweetened with sugar, delicately flavored with saffron and rosewater, and elegantly garnished with floor cinnamon and slivers of dried nuts.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


There are a selection of rice and rice flour-based desserts in Persian delicacies—puddings and custards (each spoonable and sliceable) in addition to cookies and different confections—however what units sholeh-zard aside from different rice pudding recipes that I’ve eaten is its vibrant yellow shade, its balanced saffron-rosewater taste, and its creamy texture the place the grains of rice are barely seen. Furthermore, in contrast to many different kinds of rice pudding, Sholeh-Zard  doesn’t depend on milk, cream, egg, flour, or different thickeners or emulsifiers to attain its signature creamy texture. As seemingly easy as this preparation is, this rice pudding’s historical past is wealthy and deep.

The Historical past and Cultural Significance of Sholeh-Zard

Sholeh-zard has been current within the Persian culinary panorama for hundreds of years. The earliest documented reference dates again to between the eighth and eleventh centuries CE and has been recognized by totally different names in numerous areas of Iran. An inventory of names of widespread meals objects in historical Iran between the eighth and eleventh centuries CE, printed in a latest historic research, features a dish known as zardi (or zardeh) which the historians imagine is what sholeh-ard was known as throughout that timeframe. 

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


Sholeh-zard is a compound time period made up of the Persian phrase “sholeh,” which refers to a household of extremely starchy and thick dishes, each savory and candy, the place rice is usually a key ingredient, and the phrase “zard,” which means yellow. Together with sholeh-zard’s documentation in early historic data, it’s additionally talked about in Persian literature, poems, proverbs, and sayings from centuries in the past. My favourite instance is a poetic writing from the tenth century CE the place the creator, along with together with a listing of sholeh-zard’s elements, makes use of its vibrant yellow shade as an analogy to the way in which the faces of lovers glow just like the solar.

Sholeh-zard can be intertwined in non secular practices. It has taken on a distinguished position within the Islamic observe of fasting in the course of the holy month of Ramadan, continuously showing on the pre-dawn and post-sunset meals that bookend the each day quick, and is usually ready by Iranian Shia Muslims as a part of their obligation of small- and large-scale votive giving.

A Canvas for Culinary Artistry: The way to Enhance Sholeh-Zard

Persian cooks are recognized for elaborate methods of adorning sure dishes, specifically for particular events and to honor visitors, and sholeh-zard is an ideal dish to precise this artistry. Its daring yellow shade and flat and agency floor make it a great canvas for elaborate ornament.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


As soon as poured into its serving bowl and cooled right down to room temperature, sholeh-zard develops a really skinny pores and skin on high that helps to protect the feel and moisture of pudding beneath whereas offering a dry and secure floor for visible elaborations. This high floor is sort of at all times garnished with a mix of floor cinnamon, vibrant inexperienced slivers of pistachios, white slivers of almond, and crushed dried rose petals, fashioned in geometric designs starting from easy to extravagant.

As a baby, I discovered tips on how to adorn sholeh-zard from my aunt. She taught me the normal approach of constructing exact and clear ornamental traces from floor cinnamon. The strategy is pretty easy, however requires endurance and repetition earlier than perfecting. Begin with a clear kitchen towel, and use the information of your index finger and thumb to seize a pinch of cinnamon from a bowl. Whereas firmly urgent the information of your index finger and thumb collectively, concurrently transfer your hand and rub the information of your index finger and thumb collectively. The rubbing will trigger the powder to softly fall, and the movement of your hand will trigger it to make it a line. Easy repeat in a gradual and regular movement to create your required geometric sample. Wipe the information of your fingers with a kitchen towel between every pinch. It takes observe to attract tremendous nice traces. Iranians don’t worry an excessive amount of about how nice the traces are. The essential factor is having gone via the motions, the method, and the expertise of constructing some form of design on high of your sholeh-zard.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


An alternate methodology for adorning with floor cinnamon is to fold a small (roughly 4×4 inch) piece of parchment paper in half by making a pointy crease. Open the fold midway and put a teaspoon of floor cinnamon within the crease between the center of the fold and entrance fringe of the fold. Tapping the facet of the fold, whereas holding it at an angle will trigger the cinnamon to softly fall onto the floor beneath. Use managed, regular, light faucets whereas transferring the make-shift parchment funnel to create your required sample.

Rice, Rice, Child: Which Rice to Use and Why

The rice is every thing on this recipe. It acts because the comforting sponge that absorbs the fragrant flavors of the saffron, cinnamon, and rosewater and it’s how this pudding’s thick and creamy texture is achieved. The success of this recipe depends on unlocking the rice’s full starch potential, because the rice alone—no added thickeners—is what creates the pudding’s texture and consistency.

One key to that is water. Starches love to soak up moisture, and for good sholeh-zard, we would like the rice’s starch to do as a lot of that as attainable. By putting the rice in water and heating it gently, the starch molecules have the time and proper warmth atmosphere to soak up a whole lot of water, swell, and finally break down and thicken the pudding. The technical phrase for this course of is gelatinization.

The opposite key to attaining the right texture is deciding on the proper of rice. There are two predominant kinds of starch molecules in rice that work collectively to trigger gelatinization—amylose and amylopectin—and totally different forms of rice comprise totally different ratios of those two kinds of starch molecules. Rice that’s excessive in amylose tends to yield extra distinct and separate grains (suppose long-grain varieties like jasmine and basmati rice); rice that’s greater in amylopectin, reminiscent of medium- and short-grain varieties, have a tendency to supply a stickier outcome.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


For Sholeh-zard, since we would like the rice to interrupt down right into a thickened and evenly gelled mass (way more so than different kinds of rice pudding you could be conversant in), the best choice is rice that’s greater in amylopectin. Sadly, within the U.S., luggage of rice aren’t labeled with their respective ratio of starch molecule varieties. As a substitute, rice varieties are marked by grain measurement (long-, medium-, short-grained), by breed (e.g., arborio, bomba, jasmine), or by culinary software (sushi, risotto, paella).

In Iran, Persian cooks usually save their prime quality, long-grain white rice for making their prized rice dishes like chelow. For making Sholeh-Zard they as a substitute use a wide range of domestically grown medium- or short-grain rice, reminiscent of the range known as gerdeh, or they use “damaged rice,” that are the cracked and shattered fragments of rice which are sifted out of the intact grains earlier than sale. Apart from it being damaged into small items, there’s nothing incorrect with this rice, and in some instances it affords culinary benefits. Along with cooking sooner than entire grains and being cheaper, it additionally breaks down extra rapidly, which signifies that although it tends to come back from grains which are greater in amylose than amylopectin, it is excellent for puddings reminiscent of sholeh-zard.

Right here in america I’ve examined many rice varieties in my efforts to make the normal sholeh-zard I do know and love. Based mostly on the numerous batches I’ve cooked and tasted, my advice is to make use of white rice that’s labeled medium-grain or short-grain on the packaging. Damaged rice can be an awesome possibility (with the perk of a shorter cooking time), if out there. 

Ideas For Cooking Persian Rice Pudding

As I described earlier, sholeh-zard is a straightforward, one pot recipe. Simmer, stir, and watch—that is the fundamental course of cooking. However attaining persistently creamy sholez-zard each time does require consideration to the main points. Listed here are a couple of ideas for excellent pudding.

To begin, though not completely mandatory for making Sholeh-Zard, I at all times wash my rice earlier than cooking. Washing rice helps take away mud, sand, and different undesirable overseas particles, significantly in case your rice is available in a conventional burlap bag.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


Not like different Persian steamed rice dishes such because the well-known Persian steamed white rice, chelow, it isn’t essential to soak the rice earlier than cooking sholeh-zard. That stated, soaking the rice for a few hours will hydrate the rice and cut back the cooking time as soon as it goes on the warmth.

Probably the most vital side of constructing sholeh-zard is the gradual cooking of the rice in loads of water. The rice must be cooked till the grains are fall-apart tender, however nonetheless considerably intact, which takes time and many water. You may know it is prepared when the rice could be very clean and creamy, however not so damaged down that it seems to be prefer it’s been pureed in a blender. You can too test for the proper consistency by urgent a couple of grains of cooked rice between two fingers: They need to not present any resistance in anyway, turning right into a sticky paste when pressed.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


Delicate is Finest: The Flavors of Persian Rice Pudding

There are a pair extra “tips” that Persian cooks use for cooking and flavoring their sholeh-zard. Including a portion of the steeped saffron at first of the cooking permits the yellow shade of saffron to penetrate the grains of rice totally, whereas including the remainder of the steeped saffron in direction of the tip of the cooking ensures the fragile aroma of saffron will not be misplaced. Soaking the almond slivers in rosewater whereas the rice is cooking barely softens them with out shedding all of their crunchiness. Furthermore, the rosewater-soaked almond slivers, when bitten into, present an additional, however delicate, launch of rosewater taste.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


In some areas of Iran, cardamom is used as an extra flavoring. It makes an awesome substitute for the bottom cinnamon. One of the best ways so as to add cardamom is so as to add one or two entire inexperienced cardamom pods to the pot at first of the cooking course of. Be sure that the cardamom pods wouldn’t have any cracks on their exterior in order that the seeds don’t disperse into the pudding. This avoids somebody later by chance biting right into a cardamom seed for an undesirable intense hit of cardamom taste. 

Additionally watch out when stirring to keep away from by chance crushing the cardamom pod. As an insurance coverage coverage, put the cardamom pods in a chunk of sq. cheesecloth and collect the edges forming a pouch. Tie the bundle with a items of kitchen twine and throw it in. You may then fish the cardamom out if you end up finished cooking the pudding.

Meant to Impress: The way to Serve Sholeh-Zard

After it has been cooked, sizzling steaming Sholeh-Zard is both transferred into massive bowls for family-style serving or into particular person serving bowls. Transferring it into massive bowls is extra common with Persians, as people can spoon out as a lot as they need and (hopefully) have seconds. Bigger and wider bowls additionally present a bigger canvas for the highest to be adorned in additional complicated fashions.

Critical Eats / Nader Mehravari


Though Sholeh-Zard might be served sizzling proper after it has been cooked, it’s usually served at room temperature or chilled (when served sizzling, it’s usually not adorned, or is extra merely garnished with toppings with out an try at making them into extra stunning shapes and designs). No matter serving temperature, a cup of sizzling black tea goes greatest with it. Whether or not loved as a noon dessert, after dinner, and even as breakfast, this silky and refined pudding needs to be savored. 

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