Eastern Plays: The Taste of Iran

20 January 2021 text Dannie Nikolova
Persian cuisine has a rich and glorious history, telling about conquerors, discoverers and traders who left their mark on the culinary culture and traditions of today's Iran. Like other asian cuisines, persian is also based on the dualism "hot-cold", but not exactly in the sense of "Oh dear how spicy it is!" and "it's not spicy at all," but rather in the concept of foods that warm the soul and body, and those that have a pleasant cooling effect. No matter if it is "hot" or "cold", however, the iranians will not fail to garnish the dish with bread.

Nan e Barbari

Bread is a basic element of the Persian menu. In the 19th century, an European chah doctor noted that bread was used as a cutlery, plate, napkin and even as a crusts for making other pastries. Depending on its thickness and purpose, there are several types of bread, and the one we present to you in the form of an easy recipe is Nan-e-Barbari. To make "barbari", you will need white flour (or a mix of wholemeal and white, if you prefer). This bread should have a salty taste, so don't forget to add salt. Sugar helps to activate the yeast (it can be dry), so it is also a must. Although the bread becomes brittle, it does not require much fat, so the butter should be no more than a tablespoon. The traditional "barbari" is spread before baking with a mix of flour, water and soda, but you can also use egg yolk. After baking it for a short time in the oven, it becomes irresistible with a little cheese (feta type), walnuts, cucumbers and tomatoes for breakfast.

Polo Tahdig

As with many dishes in many different parts of the world, in Iran rice was a privilege for the royal court in the 16th century and only later became a favorite food of the masses. Rice, or "polo", is the most important ingredient in many Persian dishes. No matter what kind of rice you cook (according to the recipe), you should always provide some kind of TahDig, which means "bottom of the pot". The TahDig is a crispy crust on the bottom of the rice, which can be a layer of thin bread, a mixture of rice, yogurt and saffron, or thin slices of peeled potatoes. The hint here is to use white basmati rice (a type of long grain rice) as it retains its shape and does not stick together. Once you have cooked the rice, you can improvise - both with "tahdig" and with the rice placed on it. You can mix with more saffron with dried fruits, nuts and spices or with vegetables such as peas, onions and dill. Very often rice is accompanied by the traditional "khoresh".

Khoresh Bademjan

"Khoresh" (with its over 10 different varieties) is the most commonly prepared food in persian cuisine and by persian housewifes. It is a thick stew of pieces of meat with fried onions, garlic, vegetables and spices. Khoresh Bademjan, or eggplant stewed with beef, is a classic persian recipe. To prepare it, roast the eggplants, add curcuma, onion and pepper while you cook the beef. Then comes the tomato puree, salt and boiled meat bouillon. Finally, the sauce is mixed with the boiled beef, roasted eggplants, sour grapes and saffron. It is eaten with yogurt and rice, of course.


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