Iranian cuisine is a culinary tradition and technique formed in the process of merging into a single ethno-cultural community of Persian farmers and nomadic Turks – Azerbaijanis, different in their taste preferences and products. Persian cuisine, as well as the history of this state itself, is bright, fragrant with the aroma of saffron, ancient, like the ruins of The Chehel Menar (Persepolis).
General characteristics of the national Iranian cuisine
Iranian cuisine began to take shape when Cyrus the Great expanded his empire from Macedonia to India and Egypt. The Great Silk Road, of which Persia was an integral part, brought Indian and European culinary techniques, ingredients and spices to the menu of Iranians. The cuisine of Iran is original, but it has not escaped the influence of other culinary traditions, primarily Eastern – Turkish and Arabic, as well as Greek and Russian.
The basis of Iranian cuisine is rice. Iranians prefer rice grown on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the province of Mazandaran or Gilan.
The aroma of saffron is the hallmark of Persian cuisine. Saffron is an expensive spice (1 kg of saffron costs from 3 thousand US dollars) and an orange food coloring consisting of the stigmas of the crocus flower. 90% of this spice in the world is of Iranian origin.
Shiraz, the southwestern region adjacent to the Persian Gulf, is characterized by the widespread use of vegetables that have not undergone heat treatment. No wonder the salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions is called Shirazi. In dishes from Tabriz or East Azerbaijan, there is a clear similarity with Turkish and Azerbaijani cuisine. The most familiar dish of this region is tabriz kufta – balls of minced meat. In all former Ottoman possessions from Bosnia to Jordan, this dish is known by a similar name – kyufte.
The main products of Iranian cuisine include: bread, rice, fruits and vegetables.
Iranians consume long-grained varieties of white rice of local origin (sadri, binam and tarem varieties) or basmati from Pakistan and India.
In terms of bread consumption per capita, Iran ranks second in the world with an indicator of 160 kg per year, which is 6 times higher than the global one and is second only to Turkey in this indicator. More than 80% of bread is baked in small private bakeries. As is customary in Asia, bread is made in the form of cakes, different in composition, shape and size.
The most common are large oval cakes – barbary. No less popular are triangular large xiangak flatbreads – made of flour with the addition of bran.
Fruits and vegetables
In terms of the volume of fruits grown, Iran is the leader among the countries of the Islamic East and is among the ten countries – the largest suppliers of fruits in the world. Iran is the leader in the supply of pomegranates, the second in the world in dates and pistachios, the third in figs and cherries, the fourth in walnuts and apples, the seventh in oranges and grapes.
The territory of Iran is included in the range of origin of pomegranate, figs and pistachios. Per capita fruit consumption in Iran exceeds the global average by 2.5 times and reaches 200 kg per year. Iran is the largest supplier of dried fruits and almonds.
Persia is the birthplace of eggplant. The Russian name of this vegetable is nothing more than a reinterpreted Persian – bademjan. The tomato harvest in Iran is so large that the surplus is processed into tomato paste, which is sold everywhere in the world. Watermelons in different remains of Iran give a harvest all year round.
Saffron – hand-picked stamens of purple crocus – is a typical Iranian spice. The high price of this spice is due to the complexity of growing crocus. Abundant watering is necessary during the germination of crocus and absolute dryness during its flowering period.
Purple crocus blooms only 3 days a year, and its stamens must be collected at dawn of the first day and dried immediately. By the aroma of saffron, you can immediately understand that there is an Iranian dish on the table. Turmeric is also common – Indian saffron, coloring dishes in the same orange color as natural saffron.
Iran is the largest producer of barberry. Iranian barberry is a dried sour berry of red color. In cooking, powder from rose petals, mint leaves, lemon zest is often used.
Structure of nutrition
In the structure of nutrition there are 3 traditional meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Persian breakfast is an oriental meal. First of all, these are different types of bread-cakes, depending on the taste preferences of eaters. The most popular is barbari – the thickest cake made of white flour. Baking soda is added to the dough along with yeast for a good rise. Another, no less popular flatbread – xiangak, is prepared from wheat flour with the addition of bran. It is less thick than barbary and has a triangular shape. Because of the use of bran, xiangak is a much healthier food than barbari.
Bread is served with various dressings. Barbarys are especially good with butter, cream, honey and various jams (cherry and quince will work best). Hong kong is delicious with young feta-type cheese and fresh vegetables.
Iranians love breakfast and scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes or tomato paste. All this rather hearty food is washed down with hot sweet tea.
The Iranian lunch is rice and khoresh, as the Persians call gravy-stew with and without meat. In places of public catering, rice is most often served with kebab, pieces of meat (what in Russia is called kebab) or sausages from minced meat cooked on coals. Iranians eat lunch with thick unsweetened yogurt or wash down with arc – a salty fermented milk product, which is called ayran among the Turkic peoples, and tan among Armenians. More often, khoresh is a meat dish with vegetables.
Persian dinner in the composition of the dishes is not much different from lunch. This is again the same rice with a chorech of meat or poultry with vegetables and spices, or simply from vegetables with spices or less often from fish. Iranians have a saying that every grain of rice is inscribed with “he is God.” Accordingly, their attitude to this product. Iranians eat rice 2-3 times a day, 7 days a week. There is a special method of cooking rice in Persian.
What to try in Iran: popular dishes
The most popular dishes in Iran: Dizi, Kebab kubid, Kalepache, etc.
Abgusht or Dizi is the most traditional and ancient Persian dish. Dizi is a thick soup of lamb or beef with the addition of onions, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes. Traditionally, it is cooked in ceramic dishes – high pots. Persians are more likely to eat abgusht in stage 2, drain the broth and eat it with pieces of flatbread soaked in broth. The remaining thickness is pushed to a homogeneous state and consumed, spread on the cakes.
Translated from Farsi, “qubid” means minced, “kebab kubid” – minced meat cooked on coals. Minced meat consists of the neck of the ram with the addition of chicken fat, onions and greens to taste. When baked on well-prepared coals, the heat instantly forms a crust that prevents the minced meat from falling off the skewer.
Often served as a separate dish with onions and ground barberry.
Rich soup, common among residents of the Middle East and the Caucasus. The name Kalepache comes from the northwestern Dialect of Farsi, where “kale” means head, “pache” means legs. This dish is served mainly in taverns, which specialize in cooking only this soup – Kalepazi.
The products necessary for the preparation of Kalepache are lamb or veal heads, legs and entrails. Cooking takes a whole day. In the morning, the cook delivers the ingredients for the soup, before lunch he cuts and prepares the raw materials for cooking, at lunch he begins to cook and is ready by the next morning.
Rice with herbs and fish
Rice with herbs and fish is a traditional Iranian dish on Nowruz, a festival of spring and hope for a bountiful harvest, celebrated on the vernal equinox on March 21. For this dish, any fresh fish with a small number of small bones is suitable. The fish is fried in a mixture of ghee and vegetable oils on both sides. Cook chelou or rice in Persian. Roasted fish is laid out on top of the chelou and sprinkled with chopped greens, barberry and pomegranate seeds.
Rice with herbs and fish is one of the most favorite dishes of Iranians.
Toasted to a golden crust, pieces of flatbread, potatoes and other products are called tahdig in Iran. It is served on a mound of rice in Iranian.
Dizi or Abgusht is a traditional Persian dish. “Ab” in Farsi means water, “gusht” means meat. Thick spicy soup of lamb, legumes, potatoes, onions and garlic. An indispensable dish of ritual events in Iran.
Rice roasted from lamb or veal, string beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices is called estamboli. Young string beans are fried with onions, lamb, potatoes. Then add tomato paste and stew over low heat.
Rice is cooked in the Iranian way. Tahdig is laid in a dish with a thick bottom, then the roast is loaded, half-finished rice is poured on it and boiled over low heat.
A soup of lamb or veal heads, legs and entrails is Kale pache. Cooked for 14-16 hours. A similar soup in Georgia and Armenia is called khash.
The most popular first course in Iran is ashe rashte. Bean soup with noodles. Pre-soaked and boiled until half-cooked beans (beans, chickpeas, peas) are fried with onions and herbs, boiling water is added and boiled for 15 minutes. After that, add the noodles and cook over low heat.
Khoresh of stewed lamb, eggplant, tomatoes and sour grapes. Lamb is fried with onions and spices until the color changes, then add tomato paste and water, stew for about 1 hour. At this time, eggplants are fried. When the meat becomes soft, add scalded tomatoes without skin, sour grapes and fried eggplants. All this is extinguished for about half an hour.
Iran is the birthplace of eggplants, so many dishes are prepared here from this vegetable.
An interesting Iranian pilaf casserole tahchin. As in most Persian dishes, rice and filling are brought to semi-readiness separately from each other. As a filling, you can use any halal meat, various dried fruits and nuts. Roasted meat with onions is combined with dried fruits and nuts, mixed with a yogurt-egg composition and placed on the bottom of the baking dish so that the meat does not touch the walls. Half-cooked rice is mixed with the same yogurt-egg composition and covered with meat. Bake in the oven for an hour.
Kufta – translated from Farsi “to grind” – meat balls or meatballs from beef or lamb minced meat.
Thanks to the Ottoman conquests, this dish is popular not only in the East and the Caucasus, but also in Europe.
Persian rice with greens and beans is called bagali polou. Separate preparation of rice and filling to half-readiness, characteristic of Iran. Seasonal dish, because it requires young and tender bean pods.
Popular in Iran are large and thick oval-shaped flatbreads made of white flour. Especially good fresh, from the oven.
Rice with barberry
Rice cooked in Persian with a chorash of meat (lamb, veal or chicken), barberry and spices.
Sweet rice pudding with saffron, rose water and almonds is called sholesard by Iranians. One of the few dishes in Iran with boiled rather than crumbly rice.
Popular not only in Iran, but throughout the Islamic East, the drink – sherbet – is a mixture of sugar syrup and fruit juices with the addition of various refreshing herbs (mint, violets) and spices (saffron, coriander seeds, cinnamon). Served chilled.
Gravies are part of the national cuisine of Iran.
Popular in Iran, a stew of lamb (or beef) and beans with a lot of greens (onions, dill, parsley, cilantro) and lemon juice gorme sabzi is prepared as follows. Lamb is fried with onions, then stewed. Shortly before the end of cooking, add fried greens. Lemon juice or dried lemons are added to the finished gorme sabzi.
A hearty and savory khoresh of chicken or duck, walnuts and pomegranate juice. Walnuts are crushed with the addition of water until a sour cream-like consistency is formed. Chicken is fried with onions and later stewed in a nut mass with pomegranate juice. When served, garnish with greens and pomegranate seeds.
Khoresh of chicken stewed over low heat in a tomato paste with the addition of Iranian spices is well known to all Iranian housewives as a quick daily addition to chelou.
Drinks in Persia are, in accordance with Sharia law, non-alcoholic. All Persian drinks can be divided into:
- fermented milk;
- fruit or vegetable juices cooked in a blender and milkshakes with these juices;
- sherbets – sugar syrups with the addition of juices from fruits and infusions from petals, buds and seeds of plants;
- hot drinks.
Fermented milk is, first of all, a salty arc, which is washed down with the main food – chelou and khoresh.
Yogurt in Iran is more of a fermented milk, quite thick dish than a drink, but consumed in the same way as an arc – with the main dish.
Banana, melon, mango and carrot juices whipped in a blender are the most popular. Juices are whipped with or without the addition of milk and ice cream.
Popular sorbets with pomegranate and lemon juices, mint and basil. Sherbets include rose sweet water and water with the addition of musk willow bud juice. Seeds of dried figs, basil and guava also serve as an additive to sweet water.
The most common hot drink in Iran is black tea. It is drunk either sweet or a bite with lump sugar, which is called gand.
Table setting and etiquette
Lunch is served on a traditional Iranian tablecloth – sofré, which can be spread out on a carpet and eaten while sitting, crossing legs in Turkish, or as is customary in Western culture – on the dining table. In the center of the sofré put a dish of rice, next to it – a deep bowl with a choresh. On the other side of the rice put a deep bowl of vegetable salad. Snacks are served in bowls and placed closer to guests.
Liquid dishes, as in Europe, in Iran are eaten with a spoon, rice and khoresh – with forks. Men and women sit at the same table.
The only reminder that Iran is an Islamic state is women’s heads covered with headscarves and the lack of women’s short-sleeved outfits.
Recipes for cooking 3 dishes by Iranian housewives: Persian rice, khoresh from lamb and peas – geime and shirazi salad for lunch for 3 people.
Persian or chelou rice
- rice of iranian varieties binam, sadri or thai jasmine – 750 g;
- pita bread thin – 1 pc.;
- saffron – 0,3 g;
- vegetable oil – 150 ml;
- turmeric – 30g.
- Rice is thoroughly washed.
- Pour cold water, salt, add a little vegetable oil and put on medium heat until boiling.
- Try the degree of readiness of rice with a fingernail, which should cut the grain of rice in half.
- After reaching this degree of boiling, the rice is tossed on a colander and washed with cold water.
- In a pan with a thick bottom, pour vegetable oil, saffron infusion and pour turmeric.
- At the bottom of the pan put pieces of thin lavash.
- Half-cooked rice is poured on top.
- In rice, make holes through which steam will come out, cover the pan with a lid and put for 15 minutes on low heat.
- After 12 minutes, vegetable oil is added to the rice and poured with saffron infusion.
- Close the lid for a few minutes, if the lid is too hot, reduce the heat.
- Transfer the rice to a ceramic dish by turning it over.
- A little rice is mixed with saffron infusion and laid out on top of a slide with rice, there are also pieces of toasted lavash – tahdig.
- lamb or beef pulp – 500 g;
- peas – 250 g;
- potatoes – 2 pcs.;
- onion – 700 g;
- saffron – 0,3 g;
- vegetable oil – 500 ml;
- tomato paste – 200 g;
- black pepper – 5 g;
- turmeric -20 g.
Algorithm for cooking game:
- Push the stigmas of saffron in a mortar to a powdery consistency, pour boiling water, close the lid, let it brew.
- Cut meat, peeled from films and fat, in pieces of about 3x3x3 cm (slightly less than for barbecue).
- Cut 1 medium onion into small cubes.
- In a cold deep frying pan, pour vegetable oil and lay meat and onions at the same time.
- Fry the meat with onions over medium heat until the meat changes color from red to brown.
- In another pan, over low heat, mix tomato paste with vegetable oil and turmeric.
- After the formation of a homogeneous mixture, lay it out in a frying pan with meat.
- Mix the meat with tomato paste and pour 1.25 liters of cold water into a frying pan.
- Add the juice of half a lemon.
- When the contents of the pan boil, make a weak fire and leave to cook for 2 hours.
- At this time, the peas are poured with cold water in a pan and put to cook over medium heat.
- The remaining onions are cut into half rings, laid on a cold pan with sunflower oil and put on high heat.
- After the moisture from the onion has evaporated a little, add turmeric to the pan with fried onions, reduce the heat to medium and leave to fry.
- Peel 2 large potatoes and cut into large straws.
- When the meat is soft, add the fried onions to the pan where the meat is stewed. Boiled peas are also sent there and left without a lid until they boil.
- After cooking, pour the khoresh into a deep bowl and decorate the top with french fries fried with turmeric.
For salad you will need:
- cucumbers – 1 kg;
- tomatoes – 1 kg;
- bulb – 1 pc.;
- saffron – 0,3 g;
- dried greens – 30 g;
- black pepper – 5 g;
- olive oil – 100 ml.
The process of cooking shirazi:
- Cut cucumbers into small cubes.
- Cut tomatoes, removing the seeds, in cubes the same size as cucumbers.
- Cut 1 medium onion into cubes of the same size.
- Add to taste black pepper, salt and crushed dry herbs.
- Add the juice of half a lemon to the salad and season with olive oil.
Serve sofre, put on the center of the chelou. On one side of the chelou is the khoresh. On the other side is the salad.