With the arrival of spring, Iranians hit their local markets and eagerly look forward to finding unripe sour plums (Gojeh Sabz), unripe almonds (Chaghaleh Badom), and unripe sour grapes (Ghooreh). I find Iranians’ love of sour and unripe fruits to be incredibly unique and endearing.
Gojeh Sabz, Persian green unripe plums, are a seasonal delicacy loved by Iranians and showcased in many different forms in our cuisine. Harvested before they’re fully mature, they deliver a crispy crunch and a refreshing range of 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.
What I love most about this stew is that it showcases the easier side of Persian cuisine. Many of our Khoresh (stews) use multiple ingredients and take a long while to cook, but Khoresh Aloo Esfenaj has a simpler ingredient list and is easy to prepare for a weeknight meal.
The most unique item in this dish is Aloo Zard, Persian golden plums. These are not only bright and beautiful in color, but more importantly they are much more dynamic and flavorful than many plum varieties which tend to be just sweet. Aloo-Zard is both tart and sweet, and simply more flavorful.
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.
This is fesenjoon, another national culinary treasure of Iran. There aren’t many dishes that give you as much pleasure and joy of eating as fesenjoon! It’s inherently a simple dish, showcasing a perfect blend of simple and yet flavorful ingredients that are abundant in Iran, making it a celebration of natural resources.
The dish starts with walnuts that are ground into a coarse powder and features lightly-browned chicken pieces that are patiently cooked to tenderness in a pomegranate sauce. Choosing the best quality ingredients will ensure you have the best fesenjoon on the block!
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.
Eggplants, otherwise known fondly as the potatoes of Iran, have a special place in Persian cuisine. You will find them fried, baked, charred over open fire, or pickled. Their texture ranges from chewy, smooth, chunky, and soft to creamy. They are cooked into Kuku or preserved as a Torshi (pickled) or integrated as a supporting element into a Khoresh or – in this case – featured as the star of the show!
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.
A peasant food, at its core! And let’s face it, I’d eat like a peasant any day when the dish tastes this rich and yummy, and is yet very simple, quick and inexpensive!
Nargesi’s origin is back in the Caspian Sea region of Iran, where produce and vegetables are abundant. Spinach is a cherished and prized leafy green that is not only eaten raw in salads, but also cooked in various stews. It is a common belief in Iran that spinach adds flavor and more importantly a certain level of viscosity to stews.