After a gluttonous tour in Tbilisi, Persian cuisine frankly frightened me. Indefatigable hospitality multiplied by the variety of Iranian national dishes – and now the jeans are already treacherously cracking at the seams. And they haven’t even brought sweets yet! Just like in Georgia, in Iran.
evading generous treats will not work under any circumstances. I had not yet had time to recover from the plane, and familiar Persians were already taking me to Darband for dinner. It was already after midnight, I wanted to take a shower and sleep, and not at all get acquainted with Iranian cuisine. But even refusing three times according to all the rules of taaruf (Persian etiquette) did not save me from five meals before bedtime. Welcome to Iran!
PILAF THAT IS NOT PILAF AND RICE THAT IS NOT RICE
Persians love rice reverently and tenderly. This is the same basis of Iranian cuisine as potatoes are for us. But the Persians love rice not anyhow, but grown on the Caspian coast. They are also prepared with great care. First, the rice is given a bath treatment to completely wash away the smell of the packaging. Then washed in boiling water, then in cold water.
Filter, separate a small part and put to boil with the addition of saffron. The remaining most of the rice is washed again in seven cold waters. Saffron rice is poured onto ready-made ordinary rice to make a white mountain with a yellow cap. If butter is added to rice, it turns out chelou. And if other ingredients are added, for example, barberry or pomegranate seeds, then it will be already a polo (pilaf).
Once in a restaurant I asked for rice, and they brought me a dish of rice cake. That’s when a man cooked rice, forgot about it, he boiled down into a homogeneous mass and burned to the pan, falling out onto a plate with a monolithic Easter cake – this is tah-chin. I dug suspiciously at the golden-brown crust of the “saucepan” – it was burned to death.
What we consider to be an oversight of the hostess is done intentionally in Iran. It must be slightly fried. Burnt rice crust is called tahdig and is considered the best delicacy. Probably, as some people love cracklings and fried potatoes. Takhchin with chicken – rice cake with a secret. In appearance, this is the same Easter cake with a burnt fried bottom, but baked chicken is hiding in the rice bowels. Such tahchin is prepared in layers, in which rice, chicken, yogurt, egg and again chicken are stacked on top of each other.
Tah-chin is the main obligatory dish of Iranian cuisine for a home feast. Moreover, the Persians take away the crisp with their hands, managing not to drop a single grain. If you dine in the company of Iranians, they will definitely slip you a larger piece of tahdig, wanting to please. I didn’t know how to say that one of the main Persian delicacy is not to my taste at all …
Adas Polow is another popular 90% rice dish. In fact, this is rice with lentils, but there are a lot of cooking options. Sometimes lentils are stewed with lamb, nuts, dates and dried figs. Actually, the adas polo with meat is as similar as possible to the pilaf that we understand.
KEBAB TO EVERYTHING
Forgive me Persians, but, in my opinion, kebab is the most tasteless dish in Persian cuisine. Let’s call a spade a spade – he’s shish kebab and shish kebab in Iran. At the same time, Persians and tourists gobble him up on both cheeks. Whatever restaurant I go to, a long dish with pieces of kebab always flaunts on the tablecloth on the sofra. And its types are innumerable.
Juje kebab is a chicken kebab. For some reason, all the familiar Iranians loved him more than red meat kebabs. It is drier for my taste. Even grilled tomatoes and peppers served with it do not save. Juje kebab is a typical chicken kebab. That’s just as a marinade used lemon juice and saffron. Lots and lots of saffron.
Chelou kebab is a common type of kebab in Tehran. Juicy meat of veal or chicken, grilled over coals and served on a mountain of rice. In addition to grilled vegetables, it is served with a plate of small pickles, a plate of fresh herbs and local mast yogurt. Actually, chelou kebab is a universal option for a budget dinner, when you can eat to satiety without bothering with tasting unpronounceable Persian dishes.
Kubide kebab – lamb or beef. Sometimes it’s the usual kebab, and sometimes a long chain of pieces of fried minced meat (a mixture of veal and lamb). The texture is something very strange.
POPULAR PERSIAN DISHES
Mirzeh Ghasemi is the main vegetarian dish of Iranian cuisine. It’s just hosanna to eggplant! I tried different dishes from this vegetable in Georgia, but rather I was completely disappointed. The Persians do real magic with eggplants. First, they are fried on hot coals, and then slowly simmer in a pan with tomatoes, young garlic and olive oil.
The result is an inconspicuous brown porridge. At the first meeting, they literally brought me a taz of mirza gasemi, and in horror I imagined how I would die of old age, trying to finish eating such a large portion. But under the local fresh bread and a bite with fresh spinach, mirze gasemi flew away in just five minutes! This is a very tasty and light dish that gives energy, and does not make you sleepy from gluttony. I tried the most delicious mirza in Isfahan on Imam Square. Then I tried it in Yazd, but it was no longer so gentle and charming.