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Persian Food

Persian cuisine is one of the oldest and richest cuisines in the world.
Based on seasonal ingredients the cuisine offers complex rich sauces and flavors, platters heaped with colorful rice mixtures and bowls of delicious stews. Sweet and sour is a mainstay.
There are certain accompaniments which are essential to every Persian / Iranian meal which include, first and foremost, a plate of fresh herbs, called sabzi (basil, coriander, cilantro, tarragon, watercress) along with baby radishes and scallions, all munched throughout the meal, a variety of flat breads, called nan, cheese (called panir and it is similar to feta), sliced and peeled cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and onions, yogurt, and lemon juice. Persian pickles and relishes are also considered essential in most regions.

Dairy products are generally limited to yoghurt , panir cheese and milk or cream in desserts.

For vegetarians, many dishes may be made without meat and still remain enjoyable. Hot and spicy is not part of this ethnic cooking, although Persians devour intensely flavorful, hot peppers and pickles of all kinds.



Aged Basmati is the fragrant rice of choice. The golden bottom crust of rice or potatoes is a delicacy. Rice, usually flavored with saffron, is a staple, along with vegetables.

Rice is the staple food in Iran and the Iranian cuisine is mainly rice dishes cooked with fresh vegetables, herbs and meat mainly lamb and mutton.

There are four primary methods of cooking rice in Iran:

  • Chelow - rice that is carefully prepared through soaking and parboiling, at which point the water is drained and the rice is steamed. This method results in an exceptionally fluffy rice with the grains separated, and not sticky, and also results in a golden rice crust at the bottom of the pot called tah-dig ("bottom of the pot").
  • Polow - rice that is cooked exactly the same as chelow, with the exception that after draining the rice, other ingredients are added in layers or sections of the rice, and then steamed together.
  • Kateh - rice that is cooked until the water is absorbed. This is also the traditional dish of Gilan region .
  • Damy - cooked almost the same as kateh, except that the heat is reduced just before boiling and a towel is placed between the lid and the pot to prevent steam from escaping. Damy literally means "simmered."




A stew of meat or poultry, in a rich sauce of seasonal vegetables is a central component of almost all meals. Flavors are cinnamon, lime or lemon, turmeric, saffron, herbs are parsley, mint, coriander, dill and fenugreek. Onions are key ingredient, finely sliced or chopped, sautéed in oil until golden while vegetables and herbs are added during the end.

Meats, Poultry, Fish

Lamb shanks or boneless cuts are used in stews, beef or lamb fillet is used for grilling, chicken and turkey often substitute for meat in stews. 

White fish, salmon and trout , cooked in any version as pan-fried, herb-stuffed or grilled.


Ashe is a thick soup, a meal in a bowl, filled with legumes, vegetables, herbs. Barley, wheatberries, rice, parsley, dill, mint, coriander, spinach, white beans, chick peas, meat, chicken or turkey are among essential ingredients. 


Every ethnic kitchen has a thick omelet dish like the Italian frittata for example. In Persia / Iran, it is kuku. Beaten eggs are mixed with a large amount of chopped, sautéed herbs or with ground chicken or meat, mashed potatoes, spinach, eggplant or other vegetables, fried on both sides until golden. It can be eaten cold, hot, or at room temperature. It is also served at religious events.

Stuffed Vegetables

Persians stuff potatoes, tomatoes, grape leaves, squash, peppers, eggplants, cabbage. Fillings include rice, herbs, ground meat, sauces are sweet and sour, with pomegranate paste, lemon or lime, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, dill, parsley, mint, coriander among the flavorings.


Honey and sugar syrups, scented with rose water, soak baklava of almond or walnut. Fried batter treats are dipped in syrup, fruits are sprinkled with rosewater, Persian ice cream or a frozen noodle dish served with lemon juice or arak or saffron rice pudding.


Doogh is a fizzy salted yogurt and soda water drink served over ice cubes, it is fantastic in hot summer days.

Tea, may be brewed with handfuls of mint, bergamot or jasmine flowers, served with sugar cubes or caramelized sugar disks. Tea is served at breakfast and immediately before and after each meal at lunch and dinner, and also many times throughout the rest of the day. The traditional methods of tea preparation and drinking differ between regions and peoples.

Sharbat is a concentrate of sweetened sour cherry, orange, lime, mint, vinegar-sugar mixed with ice water and served in ice-filled glasses – another summer favorite.

Coffee is generally served only in houses of mourning, although Turkish coffee in tiny cups is a popular social drink and fortunes are told through patterns left in the cups.


Because of limited dairy, the cuisine is a boon to those who keep kosher kitchens (separation of milk and meat), and Persian Jewish cooking is nearly identical to every other ethnic Persian styles.


The Gilan region has a strong culinary tradition. This richness derives in part from the climate, which allows for a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the province.  Seafood is a particularly strong component of Gilani cuisine. Caviar is a delicacy along the whole Caspian littoral and  widely prized .

Traditional Persian stews such as fish stew and shrimp stew are prepared in a uniquely Gilani fashion.

More specific to Gilan are a distinctive walnut paste and pomegranate juice sauce, used as a marinade for sour kabab and as the basis of fesenjun, a rich stew of duck, chicken or lamb. Mirza ghasemi is an aubergine and egg dish with a smoky taste that is often served as a side dish or appetizer. Other such dishes include pickled garlic, olives with walnut paste, and smoked fish.

Seafood  is the most important part of Khuzestani region's kitchen. However, many other dishes are also featured. A popular dish that is prepared with heavy spices, onions and cilantro is simply called soboor after its main ingredient, a species of fish  found in southern Iranian waters.

Other provincial specialties includes a breakfast soup, a breakfast dish of heavy cream and a deep-fried rice cake with ground beef filling and other spices, and is of Arabic origin.


Rice & Chicken
2 1/2 Cups Basmati rice 
1/2 teasp. Saffron
1/2 cup hot Water 
3 Egg yolks
1 Cup yogurt, plain
1/3 Cup Oil 
2 lb. whole Chicken 

Start by washing rice and soaking it in warm water (with added salt) for 2 hours. Then filter out the water.

Wash and cut chicken, remove skin, and fry in oil. Add some water and bring to boil. Turn heat down and let boil slowly until cooked, adding more water if needed. Remove the bones.

While chicken is cooking, beat the yogurt until it is smooth. Dissolve saffron in half a cup of hot water. Add saffron, salt, pepper and egg-yolks to the yogurt and mix very well.

Pour a few glasses of water in a large pot and bring to boil. Pour in rice and cook while stirring occasionally until rice grows longer and slightly softens (Do not overcook the rice. It should still be too hard for eating). Again strain out the water.

Pour several spoons of oil and several spoons of the yogurt mix into a pyrex baking dish. Add a thin layer of rice and flatten using the back of a spoon. Add a layer of chicken on top followed by another layer of rice. Again flatten the rice. Spread several more spoons of the yogurt mix on the rice. Continue until chicken, rice and the yogurt mix have been used up. Add some more oil on top. 

Place the pot in an oven (preheated to 250 F) and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours. The longer it is cooked, the thicker the delicious crispy layer of rice at the bottom will be. When cooked, remove the lid and let cool for a few minutes.

Place an inverted large dish over the pot and turn it over. Tap the pot in order to loosen the contents inside. The contents should fall on the dish in one piece with the crispy rice layer on the outside.

Stuffed Wine Leaves


Sweet Saffron Pudding

1/2 Kg rice, 1 Kg sugar, oil, 1/2 teas saffron, 1/2 cup rose water, 1/2 cup crushed pistachioand crushed almonds, 1 teas cinnamon

Wash rice well until the water is clear, Drain. Add water and bring to boil, removing the foam. When rich is soft add the sugar and stir well.

Dissolve saffron in half a cup of hot water and add to mix. Heat oil and add it to the mix. Add most of the almonds and rose water. Stir and cover. Cook in the oven at low temp. for half an hour. Serve with chopped pistachio, almond and cinnamon sprinkled on top.



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