However you spell or pronounce them, Kebabs, Kebobs, or Kababs are meat dishes that take pride of place alongside other meat-centered dishes in Persian cuisine. They are typically small pieces of seasoned whole or ground beef, lamb, chicken or seafood that are generally skewered and grilled. What makes Kebabs so tasty is the addition of spices and lengthy marination in grated onions.
Cotlet is a meat patty that in my humble (albeit Persian) opinion ranks quite a few notches above the good old hamburger. Many cultures have their own version of meat patties and this is the Persian one.
Ground meat of your choice, typically beef or lamb, is mixed with boiled potatoes, eggs, grated onions, the usual salt, pepper and turmeric, and selected spices, and then fried to a crispy perfection. Each region and household has its own special mix of spices – Advieh in Farsi – for addition to Cotlet to create welcoming, warming and comforting flavors.
Khoresh Rivas is yet another Persian stew that celebrates the abundance of fresh herbs and Iranians’ never ending love affair with sour flavors. In the rest of the world rhubarb’s sourness is almost always moderated with sugar or strawberries, but Iranians use rhubarb in savory dishes precisely because of its sour flavor.
Khoresh Seeb is a highly adaptable stew whose stars are the firm and tart apples (Seeb in Farsi) that are gently sauteed in butter or ghee and then placed on top of the stew as it finishes cooking.
The base of this dish is made with beef and yellow split peas, patiently cooked in a turmeric and tomato sauce which by itself is often called Gheymeh. Gheymeh is not only served alongside fried or roasted potatoes, but is also used as a decorative topping on various dishes such as Aash.
Abgoosht is the original Persian rustic “one pot meal” that dates back to centuries ago when simple ingredients were gathered and thrown in a pot to accompany tougher cuts of meat that needed to cook for a long time.
Nowadays, with easy access to a wide range of ingredients, this once modest dish has become quite elevated! More vegetables have found their way into this one pot meal, alongside traditional Persian spices. Consequently, each family has developed their own version of Abgoosht.
Bij Bij is not only a fun name for a dish, it is also a staple for Caspian Sea folks. People from Iran’s Mazandaran Province call this dish “Vavishka” (clearly a name that originated in Russia), but in Tehran those who know of it call it Bij Bij. It is a comfort dish, made with ground meat, caramelized onions and spices, all cooked in a rich tomato sauce, and with eggs poached right in the middle. An all-round simple and flavorful dish that can be prepared in about an hour, with very little effort.
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!