Make This: Byblos' Tah-Dig with Braised Lamb
Tah-Dig is a pan-fried layer of crust intentionally formed at the bottom of a pot of rice. It’s an essential part of any Persian feast, an addictively crispy dish that disappears quickly from the table when shared. Try making it at home (with or without the accompanying braised lamb); or as part of Byblos’ four-course prix fixe menu, offered until March 27th in honor of Persian New Year.
Braised Lamb Neck
- 4 lb lamb neck, fat removed
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 stalks of celery, diced
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 50 g garlic, sliced
- Pinch saffron
- 3 L chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 100 g dry Turkish figs, stem removed, diced into small pieces
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp kosher salt (separate)
- 4 tbsp canola oil (for coating the pot)
- 1 tbsp plus 1 pinch ground turmeric
Braised Lamb Neck
Preheat oven to 300°C. Season the lamb neck well with salt and pepper. Warm an oven-safe pot on the stove and sear the lamb on both sides. Remove the lamb neck and sauté the onion in the same pot until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and carrot and cook until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, along with the lamb neck, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Place the pot in the oven and braise for 2- 3 hours, until the meat falls from the bone. Let cool, then remove the lamb neck from the pot and pull the meat from the bones.
Strain the stock remaining in the pot and then simmer on the stove. Reduce until thick, skimming off fat from the surface. Add the dry fig and lamb pieces to the pot and simmer gently until the figs are soft. It should resemble a slightly thick stew. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then rest until ready.
Place the rice in a bowl and cover with several inches of water. Add 1/4 tsp of salt. Let the rice soak for at least one hour.
To make the turmeric oil, combine the oil and turmeric in a small pot and warm (up to about 80°C). Turn off the heat and let sit to infuse.
Fill a 5 L pot about halfway full with water and add the remaining 1 tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Check the rice and if it's crunchy, continue to cook for a few more minutes. Drain the rice in a large colander and cool it slightly by fluffing the grains with a fork.
Coat the bottom and sides of non-stick, 8 cm fry pan generously with the turmeric oil. Warm the pan over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Turn off the heat and add the rice. Press down firmly to create a base and push the rice into the sides of the pan, creating a well in centre for the braised lamb meat.
Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes, checking the bottom of the rice with a spatula to make sure it is cooking evenly. Remove the lid and, if needed, turn the heat up slightly to help crisp the rice bottom. Continue checking regularly to prevent burning.
Set the braised lamb in the centre of the rice and place a plate on top of the pan. Flip the pan over onto the plate to expose the crunchy rice base, being careful not to burn yourself. Serve with yoghurt.