Neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, and former Soviet Union countries, there is a lot to Iran that people do not know. Persia or Iran as it is commonly known is a country that is steeped in history. It has many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Despite the strict sanctions on the country, Iran has managed to attract the world over for its delicious food.
Having been at the crossroads of civilizations, Iran has a distinct cuisine like none other. Persian food is simply mouth-watering and will leave you wanting more. It is due to this reason that there is a Persian Restaurant in just about every major city in the US and around the world.
If you have an interest in the country, it makes sense to learn more about its delicious afood. Persians are proud of their cuisine and for good reason. A visit to the country is filled with culinary delights at every corner. There is a wide variety of foods that you can try. Persian food is just as diverse as the country itself.
Only the most delicious ingredients that are native to Persia are used in cooking the food including grapes, pomegranates, oranges, mint, saffron, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios. Since Iran has four distinct seasons, it grows all types of food. Now, that you have a basic about the type of ingredients Persian food uses, let’s take a look at the top 15 Persian foods that you need to try if you ever pay a visit to a Persian restaurant.
Fesenjan or pomegranate walnut stew is a staple in every Persian wedding menu. This iconic stew is simply too good to be true. It pairs suckling duck or chicken with tart pomegranate to offer an explosion of taste. A thick sauce is made by slowly simmering onions, pomegranate paste, and ground walnuts together. Cinnamon and saffron are also added at times as well as a bit of sugar to help balance out all that acid. This Persian dish has a long pedigree. The ruins at Persepolis reveal lists of the ingredients for this pantry staple. The key ingredients of Fesenjan seem to be created a true foodie.
Pomegranates have always been a big deal in Iran. Westerners only learned about them later on. They are considered to be a fruit from heaven and every bit of the fruit is savoured. Fesenjan does a good job at combining the savoury spices with the acidic goodness of pomegranates to create this amazing dish. It is eaten during fall and winter just as soon as pomegranates are harvested.
If you are going for a vegan Persian dish, you need to try out Bademjan. This eggplant and tomato stew is to die for. It has the shimmering goodness of tomatoes mixed with turmeric. There is only sheen of oil at the top. Just like any other Persian dish, it is cooked until the oils rise up. Offering a tang of lemon juice, unripe grapes, and lemon juice with a slight tart flavour, the tanginess of the dish is perfectly balanced by the eggplant which is fried until golden-brown first. Then, the meal is cooked with tomatoes and onions. It is also common to add some meat to this vegan dish. Hence, you would need to be clear about what you want when placing an order for Bademjan. This thick Persian stew is meant to be consumed with rice.
Ghormeh roughly translates as stewed greens. It consists of turmeric-seasoned beef or lamb, dried fenugreek leaves, dried lemons, kidney beans, coriander, leeks, spinach, and parsley. Ghormeh is the most widely eaten stew in Iran.
This appetizing green dish can be found at just about every Persian dinner party. It is eaten while people discuss Iranian politics. You will never regret giving this dish a try and will always return for more. It is simply that good.
- Baghali Polo
Baghali Polo is a Persian dish that everyone seems to love. It translates as rice with dill and fava beans. When it comes to Iranian cooking, rice is usually prepared with saffron and butter. It is called chelo. However, it is also cooked with other ingredients. In such a case, it is referred to as polo. Polo may be made with ingredients like meat, dried fruits, nuts, beans, vegetables, and herbs. It tends to be the centre piece of the table. Hence, you can expect it to taste amazing.
Iranians prefer to eat polo during spring when dill is in season and fava beans are tender and young. The dish perfectly incorporates fava beans and green dill. Often, it is cooked with chunks of lamb or chicken. The rice has a mild saffron flavour which is out of this world.
- Zereshk Polo
Speaking of polo, Zereshk polo is another Persian food that you need to try out. Also known as barberry rice, it is a favourite among Iranians. The dish boasts succulent flavours. The vibrant red colour of the barberries gives the dish a beautiful colour. What makes the meal even more flavoursome is the fact that barberries are sourer than cranberries. It is also studded with fresh red berries after they have been dried and rehydrated through cooking. There is plenty of butter that is used for cooking the rice. It helps balance the intensity of the berries. This Persian classic incorporates all the Persian staples including pomegranate, sumac, tamarind, sour cherries, dried limes, limes, lemons, sour oranges, green plums, rhubarb, and quince. Thus, you will be blown away by the sapid taste of this Persian dish.
- Gormeh Sabzi
Persians love eating vegetables and gormeh sabzi is a prime example of this fact. This scrumptious dish is made from deep greens, lamb, kidney beans, and herbs. It satisfies every Persian’s desire for herbs and succulence. Dried limes are used for the seasoning. The limes are extremely sour and intense. Their bittersweet taste gives the dish a unique twist. Fenugreek leaves are also added to the food which Westerners might find amusing. Other herbs that are included in the dish are scallions, coriander, and parsley.
- Ash E Reshteh
Ash E Reshteh means noodle and bean soup. It is a Persian food that is oh so good. Give this appetizing dish a try to be transported to a world of splendour. The richly textured soup contains beet leaves, spinach, herbs, beans, and noodles. It is topped with sour kashk (fermented whey), crunchy fried onions, and mint oil. These noodles came to Iran all the way from China during the times of the Silk Road. They are served when someone embarks on a long journey. Due to the presence of auspicious ingredients in the dish, it is eaten every Nowruz (the Persian New Year).
Every Persian loves tahdig and for good reason. Tagdig means crunchy fried rice. It is the soul food that is worth every bite. The crispy, golden layer of fried rice that is present at the bottom of the pot is the main attraction. It tastes like potato chips and popcorns. Basmati rice is used to make this exquisite meal. It will take you on a journey to times of former glory. Iranian family gatherings revolve around getting a taste of tahdig which is shared by everyone.
- Jewelled Rice
Persians love eating rice and jewelled rice is the epitome of this love. It is rice with dried fruit and nuts which look like precious jewels. This sweet and sour dish shows off the diversity of ingredients of the country including saffron, carrots, barberries, candied orange peel, almonds, and pistachios. A bit of sugar is added to the meal to balance the barberries’ sourness. Jewelled rice tends to be offered at special occasions such as parties and weddings. The sweet elements of the dish symbolize the beauty of a sweet life. It is typically served with lamb or chicken to give a contrast to its sweetness.
When speaking about Persian food, it is impossible to overlook kebab. Kebabs are available in a wide variety. They are made of ground meat, lamb, lamb liver, and chicken. Koobideh is quite popular. It consists of ground meat that is seasoned with salt and pepper along with some minced onion. Its taste is beautiful. Then, there is kebab-e-barg which is thinly sliced beef or lamb which is flavoured with saffron, butter, onion, and lemon juice. There is also chicken kebab for chicken lovers out there. It is made from the entire chicken. Thus, you get to taste bones and all for more succulence. However, chicken kebab that is served in American restaurants tends to be made from skinless chicken breast. This beauty is marinated in saffron and butter, lemon and onion. Finally, if you are lucky, you might get to try lamb liver kebab which tastes heavenly. It is garnished with some lemon and fresh basil leaves.
- Sabzi Khordan
Sabzi Khordan means herb and cheese plate. There is no Persian food quite like it. It is packed with edible herbs including, radishes, scallions, cilantro, basil, tarragon, and mint. There is also feta cheese and walnuts in this dish to give it a juicy taste. It is eaten with Iranian flatbread. To start munching on this delicious meal, all you need to do is tear off a piece of flatbread and start tucking in a bit of the stew. Taste this appetizing meal. It is the true Persian champion. This finger-licking delight is eaten at every Nowruz.
- Khoresht E Gheimeh
Khoresht e gheimeh is a Persian classic that is mostly consumed in the Northern part of Iran as well as Azerbaijan. It consists of small pieces of meat, fried onions, turmeric, and other spices. There are fried potatoes, saffron, dried limes, and split peas that give it a rich flavour. It also makes for a very nutritious meal.
Abghoost is another nutritious dish that will leave you feeling replenished. If you are looking for a dish that is packed with carbohydrates, fat, and protein, it is the perfect fit for you. There is also fresh yoghurt to go with it. In the past, the dish was considered to be for the poor. However, it has become incredibly popular in recent times. It can be found just about everywhere, at old tea houses and high end restaurants.
This post about Persian foods that are a must-try would be incomplete without including tahchin. This appetizing rice cake includes chicken fillets, egg, saffron, yoghurt, and rice. Meat, fish, and other vegetables are also used to give it a unique taste. There are two different parts to this dish. The tahdig is at the top. It adds a thin layer and is considered to be the cherry on top. The other ingredients are at the bottom.
Tahchin is the type of food that you can eat all the time. It is too delicious that you cannot avoid not eating it. The richness of this dish is something that wows everyone. From the moment you take a bite of tahchin, you will head on a culinary journey. It does not get more Persian than this. Persians will be impressed to know that you have tried Tahchin.
Finally, an appetizer had to be included. Hence, this is where doogh comes into place. It consists of diced cucumbers, mint, and yoghurt. Iranians are famous for mixing yoghurt with everything and doogh is no exception. Foreigners can have a tough time trying the sour yoghurt drink but it is too good to overlook. It is particularly served at Iranian gatherings. You will find Persians downing the drink.
Persian food is delicious and healthy. It might be the reason why Persians are simply the most beautiful people on this planet. If you want to give Persian cuisine a try, make sure to try out the Persian foods mentioned in this post. You will not regret it.