Chalau is the name for the Afghan white rice which we enjoy as a staple alongside many dishes. It has a fluffy texture, a fragrant aroma, and is a central component of daily meals. Afghan rice involves a delicate process to create elongated, separated, fluffy individual grains with a depth of flavor. I demonstrate a clear, step by step process of how to recreate it in your own home, so you can enjoy this staple dish on every Afghan table. Noshejaan!
Chalau (Afghan White Rice) Recipe
1 ½ c basmati rice
1/3 c oil
4 whole cardamom pods
2 tbsp butter
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For this recipe, we are using the “dampokht” method of cooking rice, which means that we will use enough liquid to both boil and steam the rice in one continuous process.
Wash your rice. Place rice in a large bowl, rinse several times with cold water removing the cold water at the end of each rinse. After 2-3 rinses, fill bowl with hot water, ensuring rice is completely submerged under water. Set bowl aside for the rice grains to expand in water slowly, allow it to soak for at least 1.5 hours.
Remove rice grains gently from water and place into a pot. Cover with enough water to completely cover the rice, leaving a ½ inch of liquid above the top of the rice.
Add in salt and oil. Turn stove heat on to high and allow the rice to boil
Watch rice closely, once most of the water has evaporated completely such that there is no more visible water remaining, turn your heat down to low.
Using the handle of a spatula, create 4 well holes in your rice about an inch in diameter so that you are able to see straight into the bottom of the pot. If there is more than what appears to be a ½ centimeter of water remaining in the pot, turn pot on to high heat to allow liquid to evaporate until only a ½ centimeter remains. Turn off stove.
Tap each cardamom pod with a spoon so that it cracks open slightly. Place one cardamom pod into each well hole in the rice
Chop butter into small pieces and lay gently on top of the rice
Cover the pot’s lid with a clean kitchen towel so that it may absorb the steam inside the pot. Cover the pot completely with this towel covered lid.
Turn stove on to low heat, cooking for 20-30 minutes allowing rice to steam. The larger quantity of rice you have, the more time it will need to steam. For instance, 1-2 cups of rice only need 15 minutes. 3 cups of rice will require 20 minutes, 4 cups will need 25 minutes, and larger quantities will require 30 minutes. Do not remove the lid at any point in the process to check on the rice as it will ruin the steaming process.
When rice has completed cooking, turn off heat. Open lid, and plate. Be careful to remove cardamom pods from rice.