Adas Polo – Turmeric rice with lentils

عدس پلو

So much of this dish is familiar and comforting, not just to Iranians but also in many cultures around the world. This definitely makes it to most Persians’ top 10 list of favorite rice dishes, albeit under different regional names and slightly different cooking methods.

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Zereshk Polo – Saffron barberry rice pilaf

زرشک پلو

This is Zereshk Polo, a distinguished Persian dish.

The popular Zereshk Polo features many of the elements of Persian cooking. Barberries, which are quite tart and bright in color, are layered within the fluffy Basmati rice and served with succulent chicken, or if you prefer with lamb or beef .

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Saffron and pear cake with Seville orange and pistachio frosting

Cayk-e Golabi ba zaferoon

کیک گلابی با زعفرون

There is so much to this cake, but not in the way you might think. It’s a simple cake, even if it does have some unique flavors.

This cake tells the story of my life. Every ingredient, every choice, every combination, and every approach in the cooking method results from the experiences I have had in my life.

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Khoresh Zereshk – Barberry and saffron lamb stew

خورش زرشک

What are these bright red, tart, sharp, tangy, mouth puckering berries? Well – they’re Iran’s very own barberries!

When I try to describe these berries to my students, I am always asked what familiar fruit are they most like? “Are they like raisins, or goji berries, or cherries? Oh, I know, are they like cranberries?!”

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Khoresh Gheymeh ba Beh – Lamb stew in tomato saffron sauce with caramelized quince

خورشت قیمه با به

Quince is an ancient fruit that finds its origin in the Mediterranean and Middle East region, which offers the perfect climate for the tree to flourish. Quince is quite tart, dense and aromatic, and is typically not eaten raw; it is rather cooked in stews or baked in desserts or jams.

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Havij Polo -Rice pilaf layered with saffron carrots and candied orange peel

هویج پلو با گوشت

Havij polo is not just another Persian rice dish. It’s rather an experience and a destination, much like getting a stamp in your passport at the end of an exotic journey!

Though there’s quite a variety of rice pilaf dishes in Persian cuisine, there are probably 15 that most Iranians would be able to list without even thinking. Havij polo is in my top 5.

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Tahchin – Savory rice pilaf cake

ته چین

Rice is at the front and center of the Persian table, and there are quite a few techniques for preparing it, from simple steamed rice to more complex rice dishes in which various ingredients are layered into the rice to create a one-pot meal.

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Khoresh Albaloo – Sour cherry and chicken meatballs in saffron broth

خورشت آلبالو

I can’t help but smile when I think of sour cherries! They are a highly prized fruit that has found its way into many parts of Persian cuisine, both as a savory and as a sweet ingredient. This dish is another Caspian Sea regional specialty that integrates sour cherries into a stew in the company of small chicken meatballs, all in a gloriously beautiful and tasty saffron broth.

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Shiveed Baghaleh Polo – Fresh fava bean and dill rice pilaf

شوید باقالی پلو

This is one of many mixed rice dishes in Persian cuisine and I would say my second favorite! Favorite being Zereshk Polo, rice with barberries and saffron. This rice dish is typically served with stewed beef or lamb as well as roasted or stewed chicken with the usual Persian spice mixture called advieh. A side of yogurt or fire roasted pickled eggplants (Liteh Bademjan) would complete this dish!

There are a few variations to this dish and the fava bean can be replaced by lima beans and the herbs can be expanded to include parsley, cilantro, fenugreek leaves as well.

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Halva-ye Haviji

Halva with Carrots     

حلوای هویجی

When trying to introduce this dish, I had a hard time as there is truly no equivalent in western culture for this type of dessert.  It is not a cake, not a cookie, not a pie nor a bread.

I have seen it referenced as a paste, which doesn’t sound terribly appetizing and I have seen it referenced as a brownie, which still doesn’t really fit the bill.

So – let’s just call it Halva!  And to make matters even more interesting, different regions in the middle east have different versions of this Halva.  This is the Persian version!

This dish is typically associated with and prepared for the Persian Winter Solstice Festival called Shab-e Yalda, various religious holidays as well as for funerals and memorials.

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