The Caspian Chef

Omid Roustaei is an Iranian-American psychotherapist and culinary instructor, who is passionate about sharing Persian culture and traditions through food and story-telling. His mission now is to spread awareness of Persian culture and cuisine, which he does by writing his blog, by teaching online cooking classes, and through his work with the non-profit organization, Seattle Isfahan Sister Cities Advocacy.

Eshgh (love) عشق

Mella Ghormeh – Eggplant with herbs and poached eggs

ملا قرمه

Mella Ghormeh is a signature dish from the Caspian Sea region of Iran that celebrates the region’s abundance of local produce while bringing a depth of flavor into a simple dish.

In many regions of Iran, there is a heavy reliance on a medley of spices. However, many Northern Iranian dishes rely on simpler fresh and flavorful ingredients to create enticing and rich flavors.

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Sabzi Polo ba Mahi – Herbed rice pilaf with fish

سبزی پلو با ماهی

Sabzi Polo is one of the more popular herb-rice mixture dishes in Persian cuisine, known not only for its use of abundant fresh herbs but also for its close ties to the Persian New Year celebration, Nowruz.

Iranian’s obsession with herbs in large quantities, fresh or dried, is no secret. You will find many dishes – ranging from yogurt, to stews, to soups and rice dishes – that incorporate at least one herb, or more often a whole medley of them.

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Gishneez Polo – Cilantro rice pilaf

گشنیز پلو

Iranian’s obsession with herbs in large quantities, fresh or dried, is no secret. You will find many dishes – ranging from yogurt, to stews, to soups and rice dishes – that incorporate at least one or more often a whole medley of herbs.

Gishneez polo is a slightly lesser known version of the more popular herb and rice pilaf dishes. Shiveed polo highlights dill, while Sabzi polo celebrates a combination of herbs including parsley, dill, chives and cilantro. Gishneez polo offers simplicity, and brings all the cilantro lovers to the table!

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Tas Kabob – Meat and vegetable stew

تاس کباب

Tas Kabob is the ultimate one-pot comfort food. This dish is as effortless as layering all the ingredients in a pot, covering it, and cooking it until the vegetables have softened and the flavors come together.

There are many traditions behind this dish. Once upon a time this was truly a celebration of the Fall, when root vegetables would be layered in the pot along with either beef or lamb, and cooked until every ingredient had become soft and tender.

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Ghalieh Mahi – Fish in a tamarind and herb sauce

قلیه ماهی

The cuisine of Southern and South-Western Iran is known for its rich, bold flavors and the creative use of tamarind, dates, regional spices and of course, seafood from the Persian Gulf! This stew is a great representation of the region’s dishes: slightly spicier, and with a different flavor profile.

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Aash-e Mash – Mung beans and herbs soup

آش ماش

Here is another great entry in the long line of Aashes – thick, hearty soups – in Persian cuisine. Much like others in the series, this Aash incorporates an abundance of fresh herbs, Kashk, a Persian whey sauce, along with crispy garlic, caramelized onions, and the aromatic mint sauce!

Though the main ingredient for this Aash is the mung bean, the turnip is the true star. Persians have a long history of love affairs with turnips! To be more accurate, Persian moms have a long history of forcing their children to eat, drink, and breathe turnip in its various forms for its health benefits!

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Aash-e Anar – Pomegranate soup with meatballs

آش انار

This is Aash-e Anar, another of the popular and well-loved members of the Aash family, with many enticing and creative seasonal variations.

Aash has always been front and center of Persian cuisine. This is a Farsi term used to describe a thick style of soup that often combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat. 

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Sohan Asali – Walnut brittle

سوهان عسلی

To most Persians, Sohan Asali is a beloved and familiar sweet that is a prime example of Mehmoon-Navazi, a uniquely Persian style of over-the-top hospitality!

To me, Sohan Asali is a reminder of the nearly forgotten years of 40 years ago when I lived in Iran and celebrated the Winter Solstice, called Shab-e Yalda in Farsi. Shab translates to night and Yalda is the reference to the longest night of the year.

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Kashk-e Kadu – Butternut-squash-spread with whey and mint

کشک کدو

Fall is my favorite season for variety of reasons: the turning of the leaves, the bright and colorful fall foliage, my birthday, and the arrival of harvest-time.

Squashes, persimmons, quinces and pomegranates top the list of seasonal favorites for me. I find the flavors of squashes quite appealing and when you think of it, what’s not to love?! They deliver carbs with a soft texture and a sweet flavor profile that pairs so nicely with many other flavors.

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Morgh Shekam Por – Saffron-glazed stuffed chicken with fruits and nuts

مرغ شکم پر

Morgh Shekam Por is a traditional stuffed chicken that is packed with a wide range of flavors, textures and colors. Chickens – often the smaller varieties that have the best flavor – are marinated in citrus juice, spices and oil, and then filled to the brim with the stuffing.

Shekam Por is an endearing Persian term used when vegetables, meats or fish are stuffed. In Farsi, Shekam means belly and Por means full, so Shekam Por is what I am hoping you will experience after preparing this dish!

In the northern part of Iran by the Caspian Sea, it is quite customary to use ducks instead of chicken, in which case the name of the dish changes to Morghabi Shekam Por.

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