Tah-Chin at Zand's

Invite Iran’s crispy, carb-tastic dish to your dinner plate.


Rick Saez

Lined up alongside all the other Middle Eastern dishes—hummus, tabouleh, dolmas, baba ghanoush, baklava—whose names have been household words Stateside for years, tach-chin stands out as jarringly unfamiliar. How did something so elegant and irresistible, which looks like sunshine and smells like Sunday morning in paradise, sneak under the radar for so long?

But that’s only the first question. Steamed atop a stove, made mainly of basic supermarket ingredients, how can tah-chin be so many different—and excellent—things all at the same time? It’s fluffy. It’s crispy. It’s savory. It’s sweet. It’s carb-tastic. It’s protein-rich. It eats like an entrée. It cuts like a cake.

And it’s a classic dinnertime dish in Iran: “One hundred percent Iranian. You won’t find it anywhere else,” says Monier Attar, chef-owner of Zand’s market and cafe, as she serves up a warm, fragrant brick of her housemade tah-chin.

The answer to the first question might be that tah-chin is no cinch to make. First, chicken must be boiled with onions and saffron until it falls helplessly off the bone. Meanwhile, in another pot, basmati rice must be carefully half-cooked to the point at which each grain is soft at the ends but still hard at its core. This half-cooked rice must then be rinsed gently in cool water to enhance its eventual fluffiness. Yogurt, egg yolks, salt, and pepper are mixed into the rice. Into a hot pan go butter and saffron, then layers, each patted down firmly in turn: Rice. Chicken. More rice. Steamed in stock until the bottom becomes crackly, it is then upturned neatly onto a platter: The crackly-golden bottom, now the top, is then sprinkled with zereshk (barberries).

As for the second question: Saffron might be the answer. But then, it so often is.

Zand’s, 1401 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-528-7027, www.ZandPastry.com.


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