There is something extraordinarily special about this salad, which has great significance in Persian cuisine. The bright and refreshing flavors of tomato and cucumber are enhanced by a dressing of dried mint and unripe sour grape juice (Ab Ghooreh in Farsi). Its simplicity makes it relatively easy as a perfect companion to just about any meal.
By many accounts, Salad Shirazi is the national salad of Iran! Whether you’re eating informally in someone’s home, at a more formal dinner, or at a Persian restaurant, you will inevitably come across this salad. Of course, the red and green colors proudly showcase the colors of the Iranian flag!
Salad Shirazi gets its name from the beautiful city of Shiraz in the Southwestern region of Iran. More on Shiraz later.
The traditional method for preparing this salad will have all the vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions) meticulously and precisely chopped to a fine dice. Remember, laboring over food is a Persian virtue! But its signature character comes from the robust and unmatched flavor of dried mint. For the dressing, sour grape juice is the acid of choice, sometimes tossed with olive oil.
When a dish has so few ingredients, its quality begins and ends with the raw ingredients. In this case, I used ripe and flavorful Roma tomatoes for their vibrant color and flavor, along with Persian cucumbers that tend to be delicately flavored with soft skin that does not require peeling. Persian cucumbers, to my delight, have gained significant popularity in the US; however, if you are unable to find them in your area, English cucumbers are the second-best option.
This salad can be quite adaptable: you can replace the sour grape juice with freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice or one of my other favorite acids, red wine vinegar. Dried mint can also be substituted with fresh mint or by a medley of freshly chopped herbs.
Of course, tomato and cucumber salads are popular in many global cuisines. Some will have olives, while others might integrate feta cheese and other vegetables and herbs, and they all are exceptionally mouthwatering and flavorful.
The historic city of Shiraz was the capital of Iran from 1750 to 1800, and is known for its beautiful gardens, fruit trees, flowers, and wine. Home to many scholars and artists, it has made a significant contribution to Persian poetry and literature. It was the home and is the resting place of two famous poets of Iran: Hafez, and Saadi. Their tombs, Hafezieh and Saadieh, are two of the most famous tourist destinations in Iran.
- 4 Persian cucumbers, or 1 English cucumber, finely diced
- 4 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
- 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
- 4 tablespoons Ab Ghooreh (unripe sour grape juice), or freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- In a medium sized bowl combine the diced cucumbers, tomatoes and onions and gently toss.
- Combine the Ab Ghooreh, olive oil, dried mint, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and set aside until ready to serve.
- Pour the dressing over the salad, stir and serve immediately.