From Tahdig to Onigiri: A Crispy Rice Tour of the World

Crispy rice is a universally loved food, and one that can be found in many different types of ethnic cuisines. Whether it’s in the Middle East or Asia, you’re likely to come across crispy rice in some sort of dish in various countries. Given how loved crispy rice is, we thought we’d write up a post on the most prominent dishes that contain crispy rice in some shape or form.

Tahdig: Persian Food’s Crown Jewel

Of all the crispy rice dishes, tahdig is probably the most famous. “Tah” translates to bottom and “dig” translates to pot. As such, the literal translation of tahdig is bottom of the pot. In fact, author Naz Deravian wrote an entire cookbook entitled Bottom of the Pot. The reason tahdig has been given this name is because that is where the thin layers of basmati rice crisps to perfection. When preparing an entire pot of basmati rice, the oil sizzles with the bottom layer of rice, mixed with hints of turmeric and saffron, to form the absolute perfect layer of crispy rice, or tahdig. While its preparation sounds simple, it by no means is an easy dish to master. It requires the exact perfect ratio of each ingredient, the perfect heat temperature, and just the right amount of heat time.

In Persian food, tahdig is one of the most loved dishes. It is usually eaten either on its own or on top of a bed of basmati rice, paired with Persian stews such as ghormeh sabzi, fesenjan or gheymeh. Given the limited amount of output (you have to make an entire pot of basmati rice just to get one thin layer of crispy rice!), is it often something that is fought over at the dinner table, with each individual only getting a small portion. That’s when we decided there has to be a better way. And Baaz Bites was created.

We like to think of Baaz Bites as a modern take on traditional tahdig. In fact, we discuss the difference between traditional tahdig and Baaz Bites tahdig here. While traditional tahdig only comes out as one thin layer of crispy rice per output, we prepare our golden mini crispy basmati rice cups using mini muffin pans, allowing us to increase output. Additionally, while traditional tahdig only allows you to enjoy that one crisp sheet of basmati rice, Baaz Bites’ tahdig is crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside, providing the perfect contrast of textures for absolute enjoyment. And the final different is one that truly makes Baaz Bites a product like no other. While traditional tahdig can normally only be enjoyed the moment it’s taken out of the pot, to maximize crispiness and temperature quality, Baaz Bites are shipped frozen, and can be re-heated to get them back to their original level of crispiness. In fact, Baaz Bites first got its start at the Brentwood Farmers Market in Los Angeles, and people were absolutely shocked to learn that the crispy rice cups they were eating had been re-heated in an oven after having originally been frozen!

Tahdig is a truly one of a kind dish and is the finest and best representation of what Persian food is all about. Persian crispy rice is likely the most famous out of all ethnicities’ version of crispy rice, due to its perfect texture and flavor. Fortunately, Baaz Bites has now made tahdig available to all. You no longer have to be a Persian food expert to make the best tahdig, nor do you have to fight over that last piece of tahdig at your dinner table. Baaz Bites now ships quality, authentic tahdig directly to you!

Tahdig Crispy Rice

Onigiri: Japanese Crispy Rice

Japanese crispy rice gained the majority of its notoriety thanks to one dish in particular: spicy tuna crispy rice. While this dish may not be authentic Japanese food, it has gained tremendous popularity across sushi restaurants. Unless tahdig, which uses long grain basmati rice, this recipe calls for short grain Japanese rice. If you’re interested in learning about the particular differences, you can check out our blog post describing the different types of rice available. To prepare the crispy rice portion of the spicy tuna crispy rice, it is best to jam pack the rice as tightly as possible, using either plastic wrap or a sushi mat. You can then cut the rice pad into individual logs, or save this step until you’ve fried it all. Speaking about frying… that’s another difference between tahdig and this Japanese crispy rice. Traditional tahdig is formed through the bottom layer of oil crisping the basmati rice to absolute perfection. Baaz Bites’ tahdig, on the other hand, uses mini muffin pans to bake these rice cups to crispy perfection. As such, Baaz Bites is a healthy alternative to traditional crispy rice solutions, as it uses only a minimal amount of oil.

In addition to the crispy rice that forms the bottom of the spicy tuna crispy rice dish, another dish in which Japanese crispy rice can be found in Yaki Onigiri. The crispy triangular rice balls can either come plain or with a filling inside, such as red bean paste or salmon. Like the rice in crispy rice spicy tuna, the rice in this dish must be made as compact as possible in order to prevent it from falling apart during the heating process. For absolute perfection and to bring out your professional side, you can even use an onigiri mold! In order to add a filling, create a small dent in the center of the rice and fill it in with your desired filling prior to covering it with rice again. These crispy rice snacks are always a satisfying snack!

Japanese Crispy Rice

Spanish Paella: A Cultural Staple

Paella is one of the most famous dishes in Spanish cuisine, and rightfully so. A hodgepodge of different ingredients work together in perfect unison. Whether it’s a seafood or vegetable paella, there’s something absolutely delicious about the saffron and rice combination that forms the base of any paella dish. But to really do paella right, you’ve got to get the perfect crispy layer of rice to form at the bottom of the wide, shallow metal pan. This crispy layer of rice is known as socarrat in paella, and like tahdig, is often the favorite part of the dish. The word comes from the Spanish verb socarrar, which means “to toast lightly.” As such, the crispy rice in Spanish paella is often less crispy and forms an overall less prominent portion of the dish than tahdig in Persian rice.

Spanish Paella Crispy Rice

Crispy Rice in Salad Form: Say What?

While the crispy rice dishes we have discussed thus far come in main course dishes, Thai or Laotian crispy rice comes in salad form. Nam Khao is the famous Thai or Laotian crispy rice dish. Nam Khao is essentially similar to Japanese Yaki Onigiri (but even crispier!) broken up into small, bite-sized pieces. This crispy rice is then mixed with fresh herbs, lime juice and hot sauce. Like Japanese crispy rice, short grain rice is used to make this dish (most Asian rice-based dishes use short grain rice, as opposed to Persian food and Indian food, which uses long grain rice). While this dish has not gained as much popularity as the prior three, it is definitely one worth trying!

Nam Khao Thai Salad Crispy Rice

While you can never go wrong with crispy rice, there’s just something very special about tahdig. While we may be biased in our thinking, we encourage you to give our Baaz Bites tahdig a try for yourself and let us know what you think. Crunch away!

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