Iranian food reflects an amazing diversity in dishes, culinary styles and cooking traditions of Iran. The cuisine is also referred to as Persian cuisine and consists of variety of dishes ranging from kebabs to gravy dishes to delicious desserts. The Iranian food is considered to be healthy and delicious as it makes use of wheat grains, rice, fruits, vegetables and meat. Dolma is one of the most popular dishes of this cuisine.
The Iranian food is very much influenced by the food traditions of other countries. In A.D.200, when Greeks came to this land they introduced Iranians to stuffed grape leaves. Yogurt was also a prominent feature of Greece and Turkish food that became popular in Iran. Iranian food is categorized into hot and cold which is also a derivation from the culinary tradition of Greece. Dates, lamb and figs were brought in Iran by the Arabs in A.D. 600. Turks, who also settled in Iran after the expansion of Ottoman Empire, acquainted Iranians with kebabs, Turkish coffee and dolma. The cuisine also got influenced from Russia and still has samovar, Russian tea in its cuisine.
Commonly Used Ingredients
- Yogurt- It is mainly used for marinating and as an ingredient in many dishes. It is also used to make a soothing drink with spices.
- Fruits- Many fruits are grown in Iran and are used in various recipes.Apples, peaches, apricots, fresh dates and figs, citrus fruits, pears, pomegranates, grapes and melons are the fruits often used.
- Vegetables- Eggplants, onions, cucumber, spinach, tomatoes and quinch are some of the vegetables often used in Iranian food.
- Lamb- Lamb is the favorite meat of Iranians and is added in many dishes.
- Beans and lentils-Beans like white and red beans, chickpeas, yellow and green split peas and lentils are used in rice, meat and stew recipes.
Primarily, Iranian or Persian recipes incorporate one or more of these three methods of cooking which are as follows
- Rice based foods : Persian food like Pollo rice is cooked by soaking the rice in salted water and then boiling it. The parboiled rice or chelo is then drained and steamed in pot to result in white and fluffy, non-sticky grains. The rice cooking at the bottom develops a golden crust, called Tah-deeg. This Persian food called Tah-deeg may be cooked plain or with a spread of thin breads or lavash or raw potato slices. Sometimes, fruits, nuts, vegetables and/or meats are added in layers while steaming the chelo and popular Persian food items like lubia pollo, sabzi pollo, baghali pollo or zereshk pollo are created. The excess steam from the chelo pot is absorbed by placing a towel or a thick cloth at its top. The Kateh rice is cooked until the entire water is absorbed and is a traditional Gilan province delicacy. The Persian food, Damy is cooked in a similar fashion, only in this case, lentils and grains are also added.
- Bread based foods : Bread based recipes mainly include breads like sangak, shoezard and some special breads for the occasion of Eftar. The popular flatbreads include nan-e barbari or Tabrizi - thick and oval bread, Nan-e lavash – flaky, thin, oval or round bread, Nan-e sangak – triangular stone baked bread and Nan-e taftoon – thicker, soft and round bread. Some of the Persian food items like the non-flat breads include nan-e shirmal – made like the bread barbari, but with milk and sugar, nan-e Gandhi – made like taftoon, includes sugar, nan-e gisu – sweet bread, nan-e dushabi – prepared with grape syrup, Nan-e tokhme-ru – made with aromatic seeds and Nan-e khoshke-shirin as well as Nan-e khoshke-tanur, which are gentle baked brittle breads with the former being sweet.
- Stuffed Persian foods : Persian food items like Dolma, which are vegetables or fruits with stuffing are also common in the Iranian cuisine, where the stuffing may be of fruit, rice, or rice and meat combination. Some popular dolmas are stuffed cabbage and stuffed grape lea
Everyday Iranian Recipes
- Chelo- Plain cooked rice topped with meat and vegetables. Chelo Kebab, the saffron rice dish served with kebabs is the national dish of Iran.
- Nan- A round and flat bread which is either cooked or baked. It is mostly eaten with meat and vegetable dishes.
- Abooghost- A rich mutton soup specially enjoyed in cold evenings.
- Khoresht - a class of persian stew made with vegetarian and non- vegetarian ingredients
- Ghormeh sabzi - this herb stew made of parsley, leek and fenugreek is one of the Persian national dishes
- Kookoo- It is persian sabzi made of herbs
- Aash- It comprises a class of Azerbaijani soups which are thich in consistency and made from ingredients like yogurt, dried whey and spinach.
Samanu – This pudding is made of flour, sugar, and walnuts and is usually relished during the celebration of Iranian New Year.
Foods Popular In Foreign Culture
- Koftah- Balls made of vegetable and meat dipped in thick gravy is popular in parts of India
- Pilau- Also known as pilaf, it is a rice preparation consisting of spices and vegetables or meat.
- Dolma- It is made of stuffed grape leave and is a most popular dish of Iran which has a global taste.
Haft sin is a tradition in which tables are adorned with seven food delicacies that symbolize triumph over evil. The seven items include garlic, olives, apple, fish, water, wheat and painted eggs.