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The Art of Iranian Cuisine By AZADEH GHASHAMI

As far as I can remember, my childhood was spent by eating my mom’s food. Every time that I came back tired from school, my mom prepared many different Iranian foods, and eating that food made me feel happy. I used to help my mom when she was making various dishes. When I was nine years old, I knew how to make most of the Iranian food. When our relatives came to our house, I helped my mom to make the dishes, and I also prepared some of the foods myself. I loved my mom’s cooking, but I should point to the fact that my grandma made the best food. Every time that I went to my grandma’s house, I was very excited because she used to make various traditional Iranian foods that my mother never knew how to prepare. I love Iranian cuisine. Even though I have tried other countries’ food as well, but I believe that the art of Iranian cuisine is unique.

The cuisine of Iran is very diverse. Every region has its unique cuisine with its own style, tradition, and taste. Iranian food is rich, colorful, hard to make, and varied. Various spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, sumac, and saffron are used in many Iranian dishes (Noll, 2019). Iranian cuisine ranges from various aash (a thick soup), kebab ( barg, koobideh, soltani, chenjeh, shishleek, joojeh), polow ( white rice which is served with khoresht, various herbs, meat, chicken, vegetables such as tahchin, zereshk polow, adas polow, loobia polow, albaloo polow, baghali polow), khoresht ( stew -gheimeh, ghormeh sabzi, fesenjan) , bread ( barbari, lavash, sangak, taftun, sheermal, baguette, qandi bread) with a variety of salads, drinks, and pastries.

Left: A picture of various spices such as saffron, pepper, cinnamon etc. ( Photo taken by Nick Bondarev is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license.)

The most popular Iranian food is kebab (Noll, 2019). My earliest memory of kebab goes back to the time when I was six years old. It is a delicious meal with a variety of tastes and textures. Everyone in Iran loves kebab, and it is a popular food that tourists like to try when they visit Iran. Kebab (barg, koobideh, soltani, chenjeh, shishleek, joojeh) is served with polow (white rice) (Noll, 2019; Most popular Iranian foods, 2020; Esfandiari, 2017). It is made with red meat of lamb, sheep, or beef, and chicken (joojeh kebab) (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). Also, onions and various spices are used in the preparation of most kebabs. Meat should be well mixed with spices and onion, and it should be marinated for several hours. Kebab is usually served with sangak bread, onion, and basil (Noll, 2019). It is a very rich food, and it is difficult to make.

Right: A picture of kebab ( Photo taken by Shameel Mukkath is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license. )

One of my favorite Iranian foods is zereshk polow. I remember that most of the time before I left for school, I would ask my mom to make zereshk polow for dinner. It is one of the types of polow in Iranian cuisine, and it is used in many Iranian wedding ceremonies. To make zereshk polow, rice should be boiled with water for at least thirty minutes. Saffron and zereshk (barberry) should be added to the rice (Noll, 2019; Most popular Iranian foods, 2020; Esfandiari, 2017). Barberries are known to have a tart and sweet flavor (Esfandiari, 2017). Some people might add sliced almonds, too. It is served with chicken which is boiled with onion over medium heat (Noll, 2019; Most popular Iranian foods, 2020; Esfandiari, 2017). In fact, one of the unique tips to make the best stew is to let it cook over medium heat. It can be served with vegetables and a salad. Zereshk Polow with chicken is really a very simple food in comparison to other Persian khoreshts.

Left: A picture of zereshk polow with chicken and cauliflower. ( Photo taken by Azadeh Ghashami is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license.)

One of the traditional Iranian foods is aash (thick soup) (Noll, 2019; Most popular Iranian foods, 2020; Esfandiari, 2017). There are many types of aash which people prepare for various occasions. For instance, aash reshteh has a special place among Iranian families during Ramadan. Aash reshteh is one of the most famous Iranian dishes. It is often eaten with curd, and depending upon each family’s habit, it is used as an appetizer or a main meal. A variety of ingredients are used in the preparation of aash reshteh. Reshteh (a noodle-like starch), various vegetables, and beans are used to make this nutritious food (Noll, 2019; Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). It can be served with fried onion, garlic, and curd (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). It takes four to five hours to prepare this food.

Right: A picture of aash reshteh with fried onion, garlic, and curd on top of it. ( Photo taken by Azadeh Ghashami is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license.)

One of the famous and traditional desserts in Iranian cuisine is shole zard (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). It is yellow because of the presence of saffron (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). This special dessert is usually used during Ramadan, and it is one of the most favorite desserts in Iranian cuisine. It is usually served with cinnamon, sliced almonds and sliced pistachios (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). Ingredients to make this dessert are rice, sugar, saffron, pistachio, almond, cinnamon, cardamom and rose water (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020). It takes two hours to make this dessert because the rice should cook one hour, and then be well mixed with the remaining ingredients. Because this dessert is mostly prepared and then given to neighbors on religious occasions; at this time, cinnamon is used to write expressions and names on top of the dessert.

Left: A picture of shole zard with cinnamon and almonds on top of it. ( Photo taken by Azadeh Ghashami is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license.)

A picture of khoresht gheimeh with rice and French fries on top of it. It is a traditional stew in Iranian cuisine. It contains various spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, and it has sour taste because of sour Persian limes (limoo omani) (Most popular Iranian foods, 2020; Esfandiari, 2017). ( Photo taken by Azadeh Ghashami is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license.)

When I first came to the United States ten months ago, I knew that there were Iranian food restaurants in America, but they were very far away, and there were no Iranian restaurants near my house. Because of that, I did not have a chance to try traditional Iranian food in the United States. Therefore, my mom and I decided to make Iranian food together in our own home. I started to help my mom with the cooking, and in that way, I learned many other traditional Iranian recipes. The first Iranian food that I made in the United States was not very good, because I could not find some of the main ingredients and equipment that are needed to make it. As I became more familiar with supermarkets that sell ingredients and equipment that I needed, I started to make Iranian dishes easier and faster whenever I wanted. Iranian food is ancient and varied, and there are a lot of other delicious Iranian foods which I would like to write about. I will not replace Iranian food with other types of dishes because I believe that the art and texture of Iranian cuisine is unique, rich, and special.

References:

Esfandiari, S. (2017, October 8). 11 dishes to eat when you are in Iran. Retrieved from https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/iran/articles/11-dishes-to-eat-when-you-are-in-iran/

Most popular Iranian foods. (2020, October 22). Retrieved from https://www.tasteatlas.com/50-most-popular-foods-in-iran

Noll, D. (2019, December 16). Iranian food: A culinary travel guide to what to eat and drink. Retrieved from https://uncorneredmarket.com/iran-food/

Credits:

( Photo taken by Shameel Mukkath is made available under a CC BY-NC-ND license. )