My favorite part of fried rice? Not the silky egg ribbons. Not the vibrant scallions. No, it’s the golden clumps of rice that have browned to a crispy crust on the bottom of the pan. And I'm not alone: This texture is universally appreciated. Cuisines from Iran to Korea and Spain to Japan have their own versions of crispy or scorched rice.
The crispy, crusty layer forms while you let the rice cook undisturbed. I used to be tempted to stir my rice, but now that I know of the satisfying, oil-soaked rice sheet that develops when I don’t stir, it's become much easier to leave the pan alone.
I wanted to incorporate fried rice appeal—the golden, shatteringly crispy base layer of rice—to other rice dishes, such as pilaf. Chelow, a Persian rice dish, is what I was seeking. The dish adds intrigue to a simple rice pilaf by creating a golden, crunchy rice crust beneath the upper layers of fluffy long-grain rice. This layer is known as tahdig, and to highlight it, Persian cooks invert the entire pan of rice onto a plate, leaving that beautiful crust intact. (I have not managed to pull off this showstopping move, but the rice is impressive nonetheless.)