Introduction to Iranian (Persian) Cuisine

My interest in Mediterranean food grew when I moved to Cornell University and tried several cuisines otherwise unknown to me. It became a force to reckon with when I moved to Rochester and met people of Middle Eastern heritage who introduced their simple yet appetizing meals to me. I never knew how delicious hummus or stuffed pita was until I ate homemade ones.

My first lesson after encountering many conversations with my fellow food enthusiasts was certain dishes are unique to certain countries and cannot be labeled generic to all Middle East nations. What I mean is Turkish food is different from Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, etc though there is a common trait.

I love talking about my travels to a coworker of mine. Albeit our age gap of 30 odd years (her sons are about my age), we exchanged ideas, cultures and cuisines from different parts of the world. She has traveled far more vastly than me, of this I'm envious. Her Persian heritage is interesting to me because she is really the first Iranian descent that I am close with.

Today marked a changing point in my food adventure. I am about to embark a journey in Persian food. Usually when I travel, I intentionally seek out food that I am familiar with- Asian, American, African, European and Latin American. But I realize how much I have missed out. I was educated in the ways of Persian food a few hours ago. Because of this, I am determined to set foot in this unknown path/ palate.

Mojgan talked about dishes that sounded familiar yet different. Whey and eggplant dip sounds similar to my version of eggplant dip. Instead of using sour cream and common herbs, Persian recipe uses liquid whey or kashk, dried mint and saffron. Whey powder is not my favorite food in the world but I will try kashk. Fesenjan is a stew dish made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts. She explained the underlying taste in most Persian meals is tartness hence there are lots of yogurt and lemon juice in Iranian recipes. She categorized entrees into two categories: kabob and khoresht. Kabob implies grilled meat while khoresht means stew. Most entrees come with rice, roasted tomatoes and cucumber. There are many different rice dishes but she highly recommended Persian Jeweled rice consisting of dried barberries, orange peel strips, veg and herbs.

I wrap up this introductory lesson with Mojgan's list of recommended restaurants, dishes, website and books to order. Comments are welcomed. Click on the contact on the left tab to leave your say!

North American restaurants:

Alborz located in Vancouver, Canada

Noon O Kabob located in the windy city, Chicago


Mas-o-Moosir (yogurt and shallots)

Kashk-e-Bademjan (eggplant dip)


Ghaymeh (meat and yellow split peas)

Ghormeh sabsi (herb stew)

French bakery items if you are lucky to find an Iranian neighborhood

Website for recipes:


Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremony by N. Batmanglij

Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey also by N. Batmanglij

Stay tuned! I will definitely post pictures and my opinions when I do try the food in the near future!

Modified on July 11, 2012