Indulge in Iranian Flavours
If kebab is the only Middle Eastern food you know, then you’re missing out. As one of the largest countries in the region, Iran has a lot of colourful flavours to offer (and no, hummus is not Persian). So let Miss Traveling take you on an exotic food journey like no other – from golden crispy rice with chicken, traditional saffron ice-cream, to Persian coconut macaroons, here are the top 10 Persian noms that you must try!
Read more: 10 Reasons to Visit Iran
If you’re a fan of food with layers like I am (yeah, like burger, pizza… you know, the yummy stuff) then this dish will blow your taste buds away! Tahchin is a gorgeous dish with layered saffron rice and chicken fillet bound together by egg yolk and yoghurt. The tastiest and most desirable part of this dish is tahdig, the crispy, golden bottom layer of the rice (I swear it’s irresistible). Tahchin Morgh is presented upside down like a cake when flipped over from the pot, and from there you cut yourself a very generous slice – Iranians know how to master the art of food! Moslem Restaurant in The Grand Bazaar in Tehran is the place to visit if you’re looking for the best Tahchin in town. You can thank me later.
A Persian ice-cream made with rose water, saffron, vanilla and pistachio might sound too good to be true but I promise you, it exists. Bastani Sonnati, literally translated as traditional ice cream, is everything you need in a sweet treat – the ingredients are as natural as they can be, and with a hint of rose water and saffron that gives it an elegant Persian taste, this one will steal every lady’s heart!
We are not quite done with ice cream, yet. If Bastani Sonnati sounds like your type of dessert, then you’ll love Havij Bastani, which is the same thing but with carrot juice (sounds weird but trust me, you’ll get hooked). Yep, simply put a scoop of saffron ice-cream in carrot juice and there you have it – the perfect combo to kill the summer heat!
Arguably one of the most beloved stews in Iran, this delicious Persian herb stew is best paired with Persian steamed white rice. This dish is loaded with flavourful herbs (parsley, cilantro, chives and fenugreek) all cooked in one, together with red kidney beans and slow-cooked beef or lamb. Cooking Gormeh Sabzi can be very time-consuming, that’s why it’s more likely you’ll find it in a Persian household – cooked with love by a Persian mom!
Asheh Reshteh (Ash)
There are so many reasons why you should visit Iran and Ash is definitely one of them. It’s just the perfect comfort dish to eat on the street in the colder months in Iran. This thick vegetable and noodle soup is traditionally prepared to welcome the Persian New Year, and noodles are believed to bring good fortune for the following year. There are many types of ash (soup) but Asheh Reshteh is probably the most common (and tastiest) recipe from Iran. This hearty soup is usually enjoyed with fried onion, garlic, mint mixture and liquid kashk (whey) on top.
When I hear kebab I usually think of Turkish kebab, but I’m going to share a secret with you: Iran’s national dish, chelo kebab, might be the best kebab you will ever taste. This flavourful combo pairs grilled koobideh kebabs (lamb or beef) with steamed, saffron Persian rice (chelo) and served with a pat of butter on top and grilled tomatoes (yum!). Persians usually accompany this dish with doogh, a Persian sour yogurt drink, flavoured with salt and mint.
I was lucky enough to try many different types of Persian bread when I visited Iran but Sangak is the one I remember because it was the first I had after I landed in Iran for the first time. My friend’s mom (also my Couchsurfing host at that time) brought a pile of fresh, warm Sangak home from a bakery that morning. I was thrilled to see its large shape and size. This flat bread made of brown flour is baked in a dome shaped oven with a surface of stones and pebbles, which is where the name Sangak comes from, as sang means stone, so it literally means Stone Bread.
One thing you need to know about Persian cuisine is all kinds of beans are used in their stews. I never liked beans until I tried this traditional stew of meat and yellow split peas, and I have to admit, Persians know how to work their legumes. Limoo Amani (dried lime) plays a big role in the delicious taste of this dish and you can only find it in Iranian grocery stores. Khoresh Gheymeh is usually served with fried potato wedges on top and enjoyed over steamed rice.
Iranians often start their day with Haleem, a hearty wheat porridge. The main ingredients are wheat and meat, and my favourite part of this breakfast is the cinnamon on top that adds complexity to the meal. It might sound weird to put cinnamon in savoury food, but they surprisingly go very well together. Haleem requires slow cooking for some hours but luckily you can easily find it in some restaurants in the early hours of the morning.
Persian. Coconut. Macaroons. Need I say more? This is simply the perfect sweet for coconut lovers and the soft, chewy texture makes this a divine dessert. Iranians are known for their sweets (especially in a city called Yazd) and you can find pastry shops that sell traditional Persian sweets and cakes everywhere in Tehran. It’s such a fun experience picking the ones I want from the sweets display counter and trying them one by one in the Persian way – take a bite and have a sip of chai (tea)… yum!