Delal, also known as green salt, is a specialty condiment from the Caspian Sea region of Iran, specifically from the Gilan and Mazandaran provinces. Traditionally, locally foraged herbs are harvested, roughly chopped, and placed in a traditional stone bowl along with salt, and pulverized by a repetitive rolling and grinding action using a smooth rock.
The specific ingredients and their ratios vary widely according to regional and household preferences. Cilantro and mint tend to be the primary, most readily available herbs. In contrast, hard to come by regional herbs such as Chochagh (Eryngium caucasicumand) and Khalvash are used in smaller quantities.
For all of us who live outside of Iran and will likely not have access to these two locally foraged herbs, I have offered options for substituting more accessible herbs in the recipe. I was fortunate that my mother brought these two hard-to-find herbs (along with others) with her when she last returned from a visit to Iran.
You can really use just about any mixture of herbs to prepare this highly versatile condiment. Traditionally, this was a method of preserving the fresh herbs that were abundant during the summer months and storing them for the remainder of the year.
Delal – also spelled and pronounced as Delar, Dalar, Delal, Dalal in different regions – is usually spread on fresh, tart fruits and vegetables. For example, you will see Delal spread on cucumbers, tart apples, oranges, and Persian unripe green plums known as greengages.
In addition to spreading Delal on top of vegetables, you will also find Iranians adding it to their yogurts, to Doogh, a lightly salted Persian yogurt-based beverage, to main dishes (Mahi Shekam Por, Zeitoon Parvardeh), and to salad dressings. In other words, think outside of the box and imagine adding this green herb salt wherever your dish might benefit from more flavor.
Here are some examples:
In vegetable soups
In meat stews
Mixed into various marinades for animal protein as well as tofu or tempeh
As a topping on grilled steaks, roasted chicken, or kebabs
Mixed in with rice or quinoa.
Mixed with a touch of lime juice and spread over roasted potatoes or other vegetables
Mixed with olive oil and tossed with pasta
Blended with hummus
Here I have used a Molcajete, a Mexican lava stone mortar and pestle, to create my Delal.
- 150 g Fresh cilantro, bottom end of the stems removed
- 50 g Fresh mint, leaves
- 2 tablespoons Khalvash, dried (see alternatives below)
- 2 tablespoons Chochagh, dried (see alternatives below)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
- Wash the herbs thoroughly and place on a towel to dry.
- Add all the ingredients to the food processor and process until completely pulverized and blended.
- Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or in the freezer for 3 months.
- See notes below for using alternative herbs.