Persian cuisine is not just ancient and cosmopolitan; it is also therapeutic for the body and soul. The legendary physician and philosopher Avicenna describes in his great book “The Canon of Medicine” the healing and beneficial aspects of different foods, fruits, and vegetables for the body. He explains every human body has a temperament that must be in balance with food and drinks. On your travel to Iran, you might hear some foods are cold or hot. For instance, walnut, pepper, and lamb have hot nature, while apple, green tea, and fish do not. Every city in every province of Iran has hundreds of dishes local to the area for every season of the year, so we picked a few of the most famous ones you must try on your visit to Iran.
Persian Cuisine: Kebab
In the restaurant menus, you will most definitely see Kebabs. Kebab is grilled meat such as filet mignon, chicken, ground beef, or fish served with Chelo with grilled tomato and pepper. Iranians are proud of their skills in preparing rice, and there are different ways to cook them, such as Chelo, Polo, Abkesh, and Kateh. Chelo is fluffy Persian rice with some saffron rice on top.
Polo is mixed rice usually served with chicken, lamb, beef, or fish. Zereshk Polo is one of the most popular Polos that has Persian barberries and saffron, and you mostly see it served with chicken. Another is lima bean and dill rice, usually served with lamb shank next to the chicken.
Persian Cuisine: Different kinds of Stews
There is a huge variety of Iranian stews. Each region of the country has its own unique stew that is made with its local and seasonal ingredients. The majorities are made with both meat and vegetables and there are some that are made with vegetables only. The three main stews in Iran are Fesenjan, Gheymeh, and Ghorm-e Sabzi. All stews are served with Chelo (white fluffy rice).
Fesenjan is one of the most popular stews is made with pomegranate sauce, walnut, and chicken or ground beef. It is a local food form the northern part of Iran and has a sweet and sour taste. It is not a common item on the restaurant menu because the food is served in special occasions such as weddings or formal parties. The other popular stew is Gheymeh and this one is pretty common in most restaurants in the country. The main ingredients of this tasty stew are tomato paste, lintels, dried lime, and beef with the addition of either French fries on top or eggplant instead. The delicious Ghorm-e Sabzi is served in most restaurants too and is made with a mixture of herbs, kidney beans, and dried limes.
Sea food is mostly popular on the north and south coasts and it is less consumed in the central areas of Iran. The way of cooking fish in north of Iran is very different from the south. In Khuzestan-a southern province- the fish and shrimp are mostly served as a stew made with cilantro, tomato, tamarind sauce, and plenty of spices and it is called Ghalieh Mahi (fish stew) or Ghalieh Meygoo (shrimp stew). Along the Caspian coasts Shoor Mahi is very popular which is a heavy salted fish and is served with Kateh (Persian style cooked rice).
Dizi is totally different from other foods. The ingredients are lamb, tomato, onion, potato, chickpeas and it is flavored by turmeric. The juice is served separately that you can dip bread in it and the solid materials will be crushed and mixed together and will be served with the broth.
If you are visiting Tabriz during your stay in Iran make sure that you try the most famous dish of the city, Kufteh Tabrizi. It is a big meatball and some of its ingredients are rice, ground beef, yellow split peas, leeks, mint, parsley, onion, walnuts, dried apricots, barberries, and Persian spices and is cooked in tomato paste.
In addition to enjoying the gorgeous mosques, ornate domes, and ancient bridges in Isfahan the Beryani is another highlight of this city. This dish is prepared by shoulder lamb and onion and after the lamb is cooked by a special process then it’s fried. At the end the lamb will be grinded or chopped very finely. Beryani is served on bread and some cinnamon on top.
Every city you go in Iran has its own native soup known as Aash. Mashhad has its own Ash as well and it’s called Sholeh. It has different beans, rice, grains, Mung bean, bulgur wheat, and lamb shank. It takes a lot of effort to make Shole so it is not common to make it at home. It is cooked for religious mourning ceremonies in very big portions and is distributed among people.
The traditional beverage accompanying Persian food specifically Kebab is Doogh. It is a yogurt-drink and to your surprise it has a sour taste not sweet, flavored by salt and mint and if you wish it can be carbonated as well.
Make sure you try at least one of these dishes while in Iran!
These are some of our most favorite local dishes from Shiraz, Yazd, Qazvin, and Kashan. You won’t find them in the restaurant menus, so on your trip to one of these cities accept a dinner invitation and keep your hopes up high the host will serve you one of their local dishes.
This is one of the traditional Persian Cuisine, typical of Shiraz that will make your trip to this city just perfect. It’s a combination of aromatic herbs, rice, and meatballs. Kalam Polo meaning cabbage rice is made with chopped cabbage roasted with dill, tarragon, basil, and parsley. This delicious mixture will be cooked with rice and meatballs and of course the addition of saffron and turmeric. And the final touch to make this delicious dish even more delightful is placing some caramelized onion on top.
Aash or Aash is a thick soup depending on which region of Iran, is cooked with different ingredients. It is one of the main favorite dishes among Iranians especially on cold days in winter. Turkish and Azerbaijani cuisines have Aush too. Aash Shooli of Yazd is a very nutritious soup made with spinach, parsley, fenugreek, beet, onion, peppermint, lentils, salt pepper and turmeric and it’s seasoned with vinegar or pomegranate paste!
The taste of Persian barberries, pistachio, cinnamon, rose water, turmeric, cardamom, and saffron will take you to the magnificent feast of a Persian king in his exotic palace with all the gorgeous decorations on the walls and silk carpets on the floor. Gheymeh Nesar of Ghazvin is one of the bests in Persian Cuisine. It is a food mostly made for special events. The topping of the rice has almond, pistachio, orange pill slices, Persian barberries, and lamb meat.
Literally meaning meat and bean is simple to cook that is in harmony with the lifestyle of the locals. Once the ingredients go in the pot there is nothing else that needs to be done, just wait for it to be cooked and ready. This process is very convenient for the lady of the house who has many other domestic jobs such as carpet weaving or taking care of livestock. The ingredients are meat that must be the leg of lamb, beans, onion, salt and a generous amount of turmeric and water.