Sekanjebeen – Mint and vinegar syrup

سکنجبین

Sekanjebeen highlights the Iranian tradition of mixing familiar ingredients to create unique and exotic flavors. Sekanjebeen is quite simple in nature and easy to prepare: even though it has only 4 ingredients and takes just 30 minutes to cook, you will be rewarded with an unexpectedly delicious summery treat!

The syrup is normally prepared ahead of time in large quantities and then stored in the fridge for quick and easy transformation into an appetizer or a refreshing Sharbat (cold summer drink). As an appetizer, Sekanjebeen is served in a bowl with wedges of lettuce arranged around it. Each person tears off a piece of a lettuce and dips it into the syrup. The experience is hard to describe, each crunchy bite being followed by strong bold flavors.

Warning: Large quantities of lettuce will be consumed!

I have fond memories of hot summer days in Tehran where in mid-afternoon we would have a snack of Kahoo ba Sekanjebeen (lettuce with syrup). My favorite part was at the very end when all the wedges had been eaten and only the lettuce’s woody and crunchy core remained. In addition to the extra crispy texture, this part offered a slightly bitter taste which created a heavenly bitter, sweet and sour flavor profile!

After months of not socializing, we recently had the great opportunity to spend a little time with dear friends in our garden (socially distanced) where we had a little wine, delicious cheese and crackers and great conversations about our lives and the state of the world.

Once all the cheese and crackers were gone, I decided with a little trepidation to serve up a batch of Kahoo ba Sekanjebeen to our guests. I really wasn’t sure what they would think of it, but had a hunch they would be willing to give it a try and maybe even like it. Let’s face it, serving vinegar syrup isn’t on top of most people’s garden party list!

What happened next was truly magical as I witnessed their eyes rounding and smiles widening: the looks of surprise were nothing short of affirmation. Sekanjebeen was a hit!

Friendship!

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Sekanjebeen

Mint and vinegar syrup
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: mint, syrup
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cups sugar, adjusted to your taste
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves

Instructions

  • In a medium sized saucepan, combine the water, vinegar and sugar and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until the liquid has been slightly reduced and has become more viscous. The consistency should resemble a room temperature maple syrup.
  • Turn off the heat, drop the mint leaves into the pan and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the mint and store the syrup in the refrigerator.
  • The syrup can be served as an appetizer, Kahoo ba Sekanjebeen, with wedges of lettuce dipped into the syrup.
  • Alternatively, add grated cucumber and ice to the syrup to create a refreshing summer drink, Sharbat Sekanjebeen.

Notes

As always, I tend to use less processed sugars so consequently my Sekanjebeen has more of a golden color to it.
Though distilled white vinegar is more traditional, I have opted to use white wine vinegar to bring more flavor.  Apple cider vinegar can also be a fun and flavorful alternative. 

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