What does a pasta dish look like after a Persian makeover? How do you turn a classic Italian ingredient into Persian comfort food?
Well, first you boil pasta until it’s al dente, and then you layer it in a pot with a tomato meat sauce and Persian spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and rose petals. Before cooking, the pasta on the bottom of the pot is properly prepared to create a crispy Tahdig, much like the prized Persian version of basmati rice. The Tahdig can be made with the pasta itself, as shown here, or with potatoes or tortillas.
Khoresh Bamieh comes originally from Khuzestan province in southern Iran, where it is traditionally prepared with a tamarind sauce. This variety, which is more common elsewhere in Iran, substitutes tomato sauce for the the less well known tamarind.
This is Ghormeh Sabzi, by many accounts Iran’s national dish!
Yes, there are Fesenjoon, Khoresht-e Bademjan and Zereshk Polo, and a myriad of other stews and rice dishes, not to mention a long list of Kebabs. But there is something so very special about Ghormeh Sabzi.
To learn about this dish is to learn some of the very specific nuances of Persian culture, tradition and cuisine.
This dish is an internal contradiction, much like Iran herself. The ancient Persian Empire vs. modern-day Iran; pre-revolution vs. post-revolution; traditional dishes vs. fast food.
You thought only your grandmother made the best meatloaf? Well, who knew, Persians make meatloaf too and they are not shy about stuffing lots of flavors into them. The main component that remains consistent is the signature Persian flavor profile; a touch of sweet that is balanced with sour and the refreshing company of fresh herbs.
Disclaimer: my grandmother did not make us meatloaves!
What looks like a soup or a stew, but is neither? It is Aash!
Aash is a slow-cooked Persian dish that combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat. Its texture most resembles a thick soup.
Aash is quite versatile and has many variations. It can be a comfort food, but it can also be served “majlesie style” – meaning the kind of meal you’d serve at a fancy dinner party. It can be the main course, or be served in small quantities as part of a family-style spread. Aash has its roots in traditional Iranian holidays such as Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
Name a culture, and you will quickly realize how many dishes start with some member of the onion family. Onions and all of their relatives are cherished and celebrated in Iranian culture. The onion family includes red, white and yellow onions, green onions, garlic, leeks, garlic chives and shallots. And in Iran, you also have Museer, which is an Iranian variety of shallot that most closely resembles elephant garlic, as well as Tarreh, which is a cross between American leeks and green onions. In the US these ingredients are available dried at Persian markets.
This dish takes me way back to my childhood growing up in Tehran. I remember loving this dish for its flavor and simplicity, which clearly appealed to my teenage palate. A simple meatball dish with fried potatoes over steamed rice – how can you go wrong with that?
Khoresht-e Gheymeh is a well-recognized and popular dish to Iranians: a comforting meat-and-potato stew that has all the familiar flavors of Persian cuisine.
The stew is flavored with the Persian spice mixture called Advieh, containing warming spices such as cinnamon and cardamom, earthy cumin and coriander, and a gentle kiss of ground rose petals. But what truly puts a Persian stamp on this dish is the use of Persian dried limes, Limoo Omani.
Ask an Iranian what their favorite rice dish is, and they’ll likely say it’s Lubia Polo. They’ll then proceed to tell you how they make their version and why it’s the best! Though quite simple in composition, this dish has such richness because of the way the ingredients are cooked and the integration of lots of umami flavors such as tomato paste, turmeric, and cinnamon!
Kebabs are a quintessentially Iranian (and Middle Eastern) dish that’s widely available at Persian restaurants in Iran and abroad. It also takes center stage at dinner tables in Persian homes. Iranians have both a tendency and a capacity to elevate their dishes according to the availability of specific regional ingredients, and kebabs are no exception. This dish has its origin in the Caspian Sea region of Iran, where the climate lends itself to growing a wide range of produce, fruits, herbs, and of course rice.