Persian cuisine is rich and full of flavours. However, it often does not receive the amount of appreciation it deserves. The food is made aromatic with a perfect blend of spices such as turmeric, saffron and cinnamon. Persians also use fresh herbs liberally. Meat, rice and beans are widely consumed throughout Iran.
12 Classic Persian Dishes To Try When In Iran
1. Tah Dig
Rice is eaten widely throughout Iran, and so several variations of rice dishes can be found all over the country. However, tahdig or tah deeg is a unique spin on rice. True to its translation (bottom of the pot), tahdig refers to the slightly burnt, crunchy layer of rice that sticks to the vessel. The rice is infused with saffron and then cooked. As a result, this layer becomes crisp and golden and has a lot of flavour.
Usually served as a side dish, tah dig can be eaten either by itself or it can be made more flavorful by adding other ingredients such as potato slices, meat, bread, yogurt and vegetables. Although this is a savoury dish, there are non-savoury versions as well, which contain fruits and nuts.
For meat lovers, this is the quintessential Iranian dish. From street vendors to five-star restaurants, a variety of kebabs can be found all over Iran. Different types of meat and spices are used to provide an assortment of flavors. Lamb is the most commonly used meat. However, chicken and beef are also used sometimes.
Kebab koobideh is made from ground meat mixed with salt, pepper, turmeric and onions. Kebab-e-barg, on the other hand, consists of thin slices of meat flavoured with lemon juice, butter and saffron. Kebab made from chicken is known as joojeh. The meat is skewered and grilled. It can be eaten alone. However, it is often served with onions, tomatoes, rice and bread.
This is an iconic stew, which is served on special occasions such as weddings. It is a classic winter and Fall dish which has been consumed for centuries in Iran. It is made from a sauce consisting of ground walnuts, pomegranate and onions, along with meat which usually comes from duck or chicken. Cinnamon and saffron are sometimes added to enhance the flavour.
Tart and sweet at the same time, Fesenjoon packs a lot of flavours. Regional variations can be found, and the flavour differs in various parts of the country. Since the sauce is simmered for a long time, this is very slow to cook. However, it is definitely worth the time and effort.
4. Zereshk Polo
This is a rice dish, which is made by using barberries. Often mistaken for pomegranates, these are tiny and red in colour. They are similar to cranberries, however, they are even sourer. These berries are first dehydrated and then rehydrated when they are to be cooked with the rice. A lot of butter is added which provides a complementary flavour to the tartness that comes from the berries. Zereshk polo is frequently served with grilled chicken or kebab.
5. Gormeh Sabzi
This is a deep green stew that is widely eaten in Iran. It is a popular dish at most dinner parties. The base consists of several herbs and greens such as spinach, leeks, parsley, coriander and fenugreek leaves. Kidney beans and lamb are added to it. Beef is also used instead of lamb sometimes. The meat is often seasoned with turmeric. Dried lemons, known as limoo omani in Persian, are added to the stew which has an intensely sour flavour. These give the dish its signature taste. Nutrient-dense and quite filling, this dish is a must-have for people who are looking for healthier food options.
6. Baghali Polo
Another rice dish on the list, this one is quite delicious. Baghali is the Persian word for fava beans. Baghali Polo is rice that is cooked with saffron, dill and fava beans. It is specially prepared in the spring season, as fava beans are young at that time and can be found in abundance. Dill is also commonly found during this time.
Saffron is mixed into the rice immediately before serving it so that a mild flavour is incorporated into the dish. Sometimes, small chunks of lamb are added to the rice and cooked along with the other ingredients. However, it can also be served with lamb on the bone.
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7. Mirza Ghassemi
While Persian cuisine is dominated by dishes that have a lot of meat, this dish is the perfect option for vegetarians. An appetizer made from eggplant, Mirza Ghassemi has a rich, smoky taste. It is usually eaten in Northern Iran and the Caspian Sea region.
It consists of aubergines which are roasted and skewered. After that, they are seasoned with butter, garlic, tomato, salt, pepper and spices. It is then mixed and turned with eggs. It can also be made in the form of a casserole. Another version uses zucchini instead of eggplant. Mirza ghassemi is usually served with bread or rice.
8. Sabzi Khordan
Herbs are essential ingredients in most Persian dishes. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Persians have their own version of a herb and cheese platter. It consists of various herbs such as mint, basil, cilantro and tarragon. These can either be dried or fresh green. Besides these, there are other ingredients such as radishes, walnuts and spring onions. Feta cheese is also served along with the herbs. It is eaten with Iranian flatbread, known as naan. The herbs act as a palate cleanser between the stews and rice dishes.
This is a type of stew which is popular in colder regions of Iran and is often served in the winter. It is made in a stone pot, after which the dish is named. It consists of broth made from mutton which is thickened by adding various ingredients such as chickpeas, white beans, tomatoes, onions and potatoes. The liquid is then strained and served. Sometimes, there are chunks that remain in the stew. A pestle is given so that the solid chunks can be crushed into a mash while eating. Dizi can either be served with bread or a side of pickled vegetables.
Iranian soup is known as ash, and several variations of it can be found. Ash-e-reshteh is a thick soup that contains beans and noodles. Herbs and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, fenugreek and beet leaves are used for making the broth. The topping consists of mint oil, fried onions and kashk, which is a fermented dish similar to yogurt in taste and texture.
This soup is quite rich as well as flavorful. It is considered auspicious, which is why it is served on special occasions such as the Persian New Year, or Norooz. It is also given to someone before they leave on a long journey, as it is supposed to provide good luck.
11. Baghali Pokhte
If you’re in the mood for street food, look no further. Baghali pokhte or steamed, spicy fava beans are a very popular snack in Iran. They can easily be found everywhere. However, they are especially popular in mountainous regions.
They are often topped with sour and spicy ingredients such as vinegar, marjoram and red pepper which give them a nice flavour. Healthy and delicious at the same time, these beans are quite filling since they are a rich source of protein. They’re also a good option for vegetarians.
12. Tabriz Kofte
A type of meatball dish, these can be found in most restaurants in Iran. However, homemade Tabriz Kofte has a distinct taste and are hard to replicate. They are mainly found in the city of Tabriz, which lies in the northwestern region of Iran.
They are made from minced meat to which spices are added. The meat is rolled into large balls and then fried. They can have other fillings as well. There are vegetarian versions as well, which are made from cereals such as barley along with spices. This dish is served with flatbread, along with a large portion of green leafy vegetables and herbs.
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