Iran has a rich food tradition, from vegetable stews to grilled meat, with sweets and sour flavours, as well as unique ingredients and spices. Indeed, food is a major part of Persian culture, whether it's about the dishes themselves or the tradition of gathering around the Sofreh.
Often, Persian dishes are not well-known outside of the country, whereas they are truly singular in the region. In order to get ready for your trip to Iran and enjoy what Persian cuisine has best to offer, here are the ten most famous Persian foods that you must try during your stay.
This is a dish like no other in the world. Fesenjan (or Fesenjoon) is one of the most iconic stew ("Khoresht") in Persian cuisine. It is cooked with pomegranate sauce, ground walnuts, and duck meat (it can also be made with chicken or lamb). Originally from the north of Iran, this dish must be cooked slowly to reveal all the sweet and sour flavours of its sauce.
This is the typical family dish, a recipe kept preciously by all Iranian households, where it is best cooked. This meat stew is made out of many herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, chives, fenugreek, along with garlic and the incredible taste of dried limes. It has an incomparable delicate sour taste which makes it extremely popular in Iran.
Kebab is a very common dish in Iran, whose diverse types can be found in almost all restaurants: "Joojeh" for marinated chicken, "Koobideh" for ground lamb or beef meat, "Shishlik" for lamb ribs marinated with saffron, "Barg" for fillets of beef tenderloin, along with many other specialties. Notes that Iranian kebabs have nothing to do with Turkish Doner Kebab. They are cooked with marinated meat, then grilled with tomatoes and served with rice or bread. It's the ultimate weekend dishes for Iranians, perfectly accompanying outdoors picnics and friendly gathering.
This traditional stew is not only a delicious meal but also an experience in itself. Indeed, this meat stew, often called "Dizi", is served in different pots. On the main one, the meat has been slowly cooked on a wood stove along with fat, potatoes, tomatoes, and water. Once ready to be eaten, the juice is separated from the rest, which is pounded together and eaten with warm flatbread. This rich and heavy dish used to be made with the cheapest parts of lamb, as it was the typical poor man's dish but is now made with leg or shoulder. Some restaurants are even specialized in Abgoosht and serve this meal only.
Iranians have mastered the cooking process of eggplants, which is the main ingredient of many famous dishes, among which Kahsk-e Bademjan. This incredible dish is usually served as an appetizer and appreciated with flatbread. This food, which reminds a sort of eggplant caviar, is simply made with mashed eggplants, ground walnuts, onions, and the most important: "Kashk", an ingredient which is something between the cheese and the yoghurt. The combination of these different flavours has created one of the most popular Iranian appetizers.
There are plenty of soups in Iran, but the most famous is without a doubt "Ash-e Reshteh". This rich dish is made with thin noodles, beans and lots of green herbs. Mint, Kashk (the yoghurt used for Kashk-e Bademjan) and grilled onions added on top of it before degustation, makes it heavenly perfect. It's a rich vegetarian meal, which is usually part of the New Year Celebrations, Nowruz.
Rice is a serious matter in Iran and you can find many different types, from "Chelo" to "Polo" and the crunchy "Tahdig". The other specificity of Iranian cuisine is a certain love for sour tastes and the small red barberries called "Zereshk" are just what is needed to make this rice a must among Iranian dishes. If it looks quite simple, Zereshk Polo is actually cooked with lots of butter and saffron, which give it a unique taste, and most of the time served with chicken.
This rice cake is a full dish made with all Iranians' favourite part of any dishes of rice: "Tahdig". It consists of the last layer of rice, which is crunchy. For making "Tahchin", lots of Tahdig are used to form a rice cake, which is then filled with chickens, eggplants, yoghurt, or fish.
Eggplant lovers, this is another dish for you. As for Kashk-e Bademjan, Mirza Ghassemi is usually served as an appetizer. It's a typical dish coming from the north of Iran, which is made of smoked eggplants, lots of eggs, garlic, tomatoes, and turmeric. This tasteful dish is eaten with flatbread. It has a unique taste which comes from the way eggplants are grilled before being smashed with the rest and slowly cooked.
Just looking at a colourful plate of Baghali Polo is enough to cheer you up and without a doubt, open your appetite. There are lots of vegetable rice dishes in Iranian cookery, but this one is among the most famous. It is made with fresh chopped dill, saffron, butter, and fava beans. It's often served along with chicken or meat but is tasty enough to be enjoyed on its own as a vegetarian dish. And if you're lucky enough, you will also have a part of the crunchy “Tahdig” made out of Baghali polo.