Culinary traditions reflect the civilizations they were developed in, and Persian cuisine depicts well the subtlety and diversity of this ancient civilisation. Just as its population is multi-ethnic, Persian gastronomy offers a great variety of dishes, and is colorful, redolent of saffron, turmeric, rose water and fresh herbs that accompany them.
The delicateness of the rice
Iranians are great rice-lovers. They have grown huge crops of rice since high Antiquity in the northern regions of the country, where the climate is suitable for rice-paddies. Rice cooking is an art in Iran. Each region has its own adaptation of the tradition, and to reveal the subtle smell of the rice, there are several ways to cook it:
- Chelo is the white rice, often flavored with saffron, that comes with dishes cooked with sauces or meats, the most famous being the chelo kebab, the national dish. Don’t think it’s a simple recipe ! Cooking rice, in this fashion requires more than an hour.
- Polo is a rice cooked with other ingredients, mixing different flavors. Albaloo polo is cooked with Morello cherries; sabzi polo, mostly served with fish, is cooked with fine herbs; adas polo with lentils; and the delicious morgh-polo comes with marinated chicken, saffron and lemon.
- Kateh, typical of northern Iran, is a rice cooked in boiling water with butter and salt, until all the water has evaporated. This recipe is very easy to prepare.
- Dami looks like kateh, but as polo for chelow, it is cooked mixed with meat and vegetables that instill their flavor in it.
Have you ever heard about tadig?
We cannot end this section about rice without mentioning the delicious tadig, the golden rice crust that appears at the bottom and on the sides of the pan during the cooking process. The rice can then be removed from the pan and served like a cake, or the tadig can be served on a side dish. All Iranian children look for these crispy bits to grab a piece – adults do too – actually anyone who has ever tasted it!
Types of dishes
In spite of their variety, Iranian dishes can be divided into several main types, among which:
- Khoreshts are stews, in which the meat is cooked in water with vegetables, herbs and spices. The most common are khoresht-e gheymeh (meat, tomatoes, split peas), khoresht-e bademjan (meat, tomatoes, eggplants), khoresht-e fessenjoon (chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce), khoresht-e aloo (chicken with prunes) and khoresht-e ghormeh sabzi (veal or lamb with herbs and beans). Always coming with rice, these simmered dishes have a place of choice on the dinner tables of Iranian families.
- Kebabs are pieces of meat grilled on skewers. Among them, you can find :
- koubideh (ground meat, mostly mutton),
- barg (sirloin),
- jougeh kabab (chicken marinated in lemon juice and saffron).
- Âbgoushts are pieces of meat boiled in water with cereals, herbs, potatoes and onions.are pieces of meat boiled in water with cereals, herbs, potatoes and onions.
- Kookoos are made with herbs or spinach, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage and others, mixed with eggs and cooked like omelets.
- Ashs are thick soups.
- Dolmehs of different types of stuffed vegetables.
- Desserts et pastries. Les sholeh zard (saffron rice pudding, literally “yellow flame”) or noon khameyi (cream puffs) for the gourmands, are typical of Iranian dinner tables.
Condiments and side dishes
Iranian dinner tables are always loaded with numerous condiments to go with main dishes.
- Sabzi is a plate filled with fresh herbs. It is there for every meal.
- Yoghurt is very often there too, either plain or flavored with cucumber (mast-o khiar) or spinach (borani). As a side dish, it is often mixed with raisins, cucumber, ice cubes, walnuts, fine herbs to make a delicious and fresh summer appetizer.
- Torchi eis a condiment made of a vegetable or mix of vegetables macerated in vinegar. It adds sourness to dishes.
- Bread is also an important part of our meals. It is baked in a tanoor, an oven fueled with charcoal. There are different types of bread: lavash, babari, taftoon, sangak…