Rice (or berenj in Iranian) is all important in Iran. There are specialist shops where you buy nothing but rice. Sometimes, they will also sell rock salt which is what any self-respecting Iranian cook would use when cooking rice. In one shop in Bandar-e Anzali, the capital of caviar, they had a huge pile of rock salt right next to the bags of rice while in another shop outside Rasht, in Gilan Province where most of the Iranian rice is grown, they also had bags of peanuts. I think it was in that shop that I overheard a woman ask about the age of the rice she was buying. I had never before heard anyone discuss ageing rice. Well, people in Iran do and according to them, rice is supposed to be stored for a year before it can be used. Something about it cooking better when it is older as this study explains.
I can’t buy rock salt in London, at least not from a pile like the one in the picture above, but I can buy good Iranian rice, both sadri and dom-e-sia. The latter means black-tail or black diamond rice because it’s black at one end. Both are very good although my Iranian friends tell me dom-e-sia is the one to get but the sadri in the picture below is priced marginally higher. Anyhow, I now make the treck to Kensington High Street where there is a cluster of Iranian shops to buy my long grain rice. Iranian rice is definitely longer-grained and fluffier than your average basmati but I wish they had the same beautifully bagged and stacked rice as what you find in Iran, or even the displays of the different varieties which you can pick up and run through your fingers to check the grains and make sure they are in good condition. And if they did, I would hope they would be better displayed than the rice in the ugly plastic buckets below but at least they are clean!