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Persian cuisine or the cuisine of Iranmarker is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, culinary traditions and styles distinct to their regions.It includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelo kabab (barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresht (stew that is served with white Basmati or Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, and others), aash (a thick soup:as an example Ash-e anar), kookoo (vegetable Souffle), pollo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including loobia pollo, albaloo pollo, Sabzi pollo, zereshk pollo, Baghali Polo and others), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.

Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. The main Persianmarker cuisines are combination of rice with meat, lamb, chicken, or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavorings such as saffron, dried lime, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.

National cuisine


Tah-chin, a savory saffron rice-cake with a filling that is most usually marinated chicken fillets.
The ubiquitous Persian Kabab is often served with both plain rice and Tah-chin.
It is believed that rice (berenj in Persian) was brought to Iran from the Indian subcontinent in ancient times. Varieties of rice in Iran include champa, rasmi, anbarbu, mowlai, sadri, khanjari, shekari, doodi, and others. Basmati rice from Indiamarker is very similar to these Persian varieties and is also readily available in Iran. Traditionally, rice was most prevalent as a major staple item in northern Iran, while in the rest of the country bread was the dominant staple. The varieties of rice most valued in Persian cuisine are prized for their aroma, and grow in the north of Iran.

Methods of cooking rice

There are three primary methods of cooking rice in Iran:
  • Polo: rice is prepared by soaking in salted water and boiled, while parboiled rice is called Chelo. Chelo is drained and put back in the pot to be steamed. This method results in an exceptionally fluffy rice with the rice grains separated and not sticky. A golden rice crust is created at the bottom of the pot called Tah-deeg (literally "bottom of the pot"). Tah-deeg can be plain or with spreading lavash or other thin breads or slices of raw potatoes on the bottom of the pot. Meat, vegetable, nuts and fruits are sometimes added in layers or completely mixed with the chelo and then steamed, such as Baghali Polo, Lubia Polo, Zereshk Polo and Sabzi Polo. When Chelo is in the pot the heat is reduced and a piece of thick cloth or towel is place on top of the pot for absorbing the extra steam.
  • Kateh : rice that is cooked until the water is absorbed completely. This is also the traditional dish of Gilan Province (described in detail below).
  • Damy : cooked almost the same as Kateh but at the start ingredients that can be cooked thoroughly with the rice are added such as grains and beans such as lentil in "Adass Polo". In making Kateh the heat is reduced to minimum when the rice and other ingredients are almost cooked. If kept long enough on the stove without burning and over-cooking Damy and Kateh can also produce Tah-deeg. Damy literally means "steaming". A special form of Damy is Tah-chin, that is a mixture of yogurt, lamb and rice plus saffron and egg yolks .


Bread is called نان [nān] in Persian, which has been borrowed as Naan in English. There are four major Iranian flat breads:
  • Nan-e barbari: thick and oval-shaped, also known as Tabrizi Bread or Nan-e Tabrizi, for its origins in and links to the city of Tabrizmarker.
  • Nan-e lavash: thin, flaky and round or oval, and is also the oldest known bread in the Middle East and Central Asia.
  • Nan-e sangak: Triangle-shaped bread that is stone-baked.
  • Nan-e taftoon: Thin, but thicker than Lavash, soft and round.

Other breads include:
  • Nan-e shirmal: Made like barbari, except with milk instead of water, in addition to a bit of sugar, and is eaten during breakfast or with tea.
  • Nan-e Gandhi: Sweet bread made like taftoon, and is eaten during breakfast or with tea.
  • Nan-e gisu: a sweet Armenianmarker bread, and also is eaten in the morning or with tea later in the day.
  • Nan-e dushabi: bread made with grape syrup.
  • Nan-e tiri: like lavash.
  • Nan-e tokhme-ru: breads with sweet-smelling seeds on them.
  • Nan-e khoshke-shirin: sweet brittle bread baked in gentle heat.
  • Nan-e khoshke-tanur: brittle bread baked in gentle heat.
  • Nan-e kopoli: any kind of thick bread.

Second only to rice is the production and use of wheat. There are said to be more than forty types of wheat breads from very dark to very light. From crisp to limp, and at least one type of flat bread will be a part of every meal. Nan-e lavash is an example of the thin crisp bread with good keeping qualities, while nan-e sangak is a fresh yeast bread, baked on hot stones and eaten while still warm.

Fruits and vegetables

Iran's agriculture, producing many fruits and vegetables, especially what a lot of countries consider “exotic” are easier to come by. A bowl full of fruit is common on most Persian tables and dishes of vegetables and herbs are standard sides to most meals.

Iran is one of the top date producers in the world; some of the special date cultivars (like Rotab) are grown in Iran.

For generations, Iranians have been eating various fruits, vegetables, and herbs for their health benefits that have only recently been discovered in other parts of the world. For example, onions and garlic, pomegranate, and sabzijat (various green herbs) are regular ingredients in many Persian dishes.

While the climate of the Middle East is conducive to the growing of fruits, the orchards and vineyards of Iran produce fruits of legendary flavour and size. These are not only enjoyed fresh and ripe as desserts but are also imaginatively combined with meats and form unusual accompaniments to main dishes. When fresh fruits are not available, a large variety of excellent dried fruits such as dates, figs, apricots and peaches are used instead. The list of fruits includes fresh dates and fresh figs. Many citrus fruits, apricots, peaches, sweet and sour cherries, apples, plums, pears, pomegranates and many varieties of grapes and melons.

While the eggplant (aubergine) is "the potato of Iran", Iranians are fond of fresh green salads dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a little garlic. Vegetables such as pumpkin, spinach, green beans, broad beans, courgettes, varieties of squashes and carrots are commonly used in rice and meat dishes.Tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onions often accompany a meal. A small sweet variety of cucumber is popularly served as a fruit.

The term "dolmeh" is used to describe any vegetable or fruit stuffed with a rice or rice-and meat mixture: vine leaves, cabbage leaves, spinach, eggplant, sweet peppers, tomatoes, even apples and quince.The most popular dolmas in Iran today are stuffed grape leaves, which are prepared by lightly parboiling the fresh leaves in salted water, then stuffing them with a mixture of ground meat, rice, chopped herbs like parsley, split peas, and seasoning. The dolmas are then simmered in a sweet-and-sour mixture of vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, and water. Stuffings vary, however, from region to region and even from family to family. Stuffed cabbage and grape leaves are the only dolmas that can be served hot or cold. When intended to be served cold they generally do not contain meat, however. Fruit dolmas are probably a specialty of Persian cuisine. The fruit is first cooked, then stuffed with meat, seasonings, and sometimes tomato sauce; the dolmas are then simmered in meat broth or a sweet-and-sour sauce. In recent decades new variations have been introduced, largely under Western influence: Potatoes, artichokes, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables are also stuffed.

To underline both the skill and imagination of Iranian cookery, a few examples of the main ingredients in Iranian specialties would include duck, pomegranates and walnuts; lamb, prunes and cinnamon; spinach, orange and garlic; and chicken and sliced peaches sautéed in onions and butter, seasoned with cinnamon and lemon juice.

The above are only a few examples of the combination of meats and vegetables, or meats and fruits plus unusual seasonings that may go into "chelo khoresh", the favorite Iranian dish that is served at least once daily. This dish of crusty baked rice is topped by one of the sauces listed, or one of dozens more limited only by price and availability of ingredients.

Khoresht Beh (Quince Stew) is an example of using fruits in Iranian cooking: chunks of lamb are stewed with slices or cubes of tart quince and yellow split peas; this dish is always served with rice.

Drinks and dessert

The traditional drink accompanying Iranian dishes is called doogh. Doogh is a combination of yogurt, water (or soda) and dried mint. Other drinks are several types of especially prepared sherbets called Sharbat and Khak shir. One favorite is Aab-e Havij, alternately called havij bastani, carrot juice made into an ice cream float and garnished with cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices. There are also drinks that aren't served with meals. These are Sheer Moz (banana milk shake), Aab Talebi (cantaloupe juice), and Aab Hendevaneh (watermelon juice). These drinks are commonly made in stands or kiosks in streets on summer days and on hiking trails. Aab Anaar (pomegranate juice) is also popular and has recently (2007) become popular in North America, specifically for its supposed health benefits including its high anti-oxidant levels (much higher than green tea). Although firm scientific evidence demonstrates that the touted health benefits of pomegranate are yet unproven and largely a marketing tactic by one U.S. company in particular. Sekanjebin is a thick syrup made from carbonated or plain water, vinegar, mint and sugar. It can be mixed with a drop of rosewater to drink or to be used as a dip for Romaine lettuce.

There are many dessert dishes, ranging from Bastani-e Za'farāni (Persian Ice Cream with saffron, also called Bastani-e Akbar-Mashti, later on called Gol-o Bolbol as well) to the faludeh, a sort of frozen sorbet made with thin starch noodles and rose water. Persian Ice Cream is flavored with saffron, rosewater, and chunks of heavy cream. There are also many types of sweets. The sweets divide into two categories: "Shirini Tar" (lit. moist sweets) and "Shirini Khoshk" (lit. dry sweets). The first category consists of French-inspired pastries with heavy whole milk whipped cream, glazed fruit toppings, tarts, custard-filled éclairs, and a variety of cakes. Some have an Iranian twist, such as the addition of pistachio, saffron and walnuts. The second category consists of more traditional sweets: Shirini-e Berenji (a type of rice cookie), Shirini-e Nokhodchi (clover shaped, chickpea cookies), Kolouche (a large cookie usually with a walnut or fig filling), Shirini-e Keshmeshi (raisin and saffron cookies), Shirini-e Yazdi (muffins or cupcakes, originated in the city of Yazd), Nan-e kulukhi (a kind of large and thick cookie similar to clod inside without any filling), and more.

Three others that is, Zulbia, Bamieh and Gush-e Fil are very popular. Bamieh is an oval-shaped sweet dough piece, deep-fried and then covered with a syrup (traditionally with honey). Zulbia is the same sort of dough, also deep-fried, but it is poured into the oil so that it twirls, then covered with the same syrup (or honey). It has become popular in other parts of the world, and is known as funnel cake in North America, and Jalebi in India and Pakistan. Goosh-e Fil (lit. Elephant's ear) is also deep-fried dough, fried in the shape of a flat elephant's ear and then covered with sugar powder. Of course, no discussion of Persian desserts would be complete without one of the classics, Halvardeh (Tehrani for halvā-arde, with halvā, an Arabic loan word meaning 'sweet' and arde, Persian for Arabic tāhini. Halvā comes in various qualities and varieties, from mainly sugar to sesame seed extract, which is known as tahini in the west (the aforementioned Persian arde), with pestach, and Iran produces some of the best.

Noghl, a dish of sugar-coated almonds, is often served at Iranian weddings.

Essential accompaniments

There are certain accompaniments (mokhalafat) which are essential to every Iranian meal at lunch (nahar) and dinner (shaam), regardless of the region. These include, first and foremost, a plate of fresh herbs, called sabzi (basil, cilantro, fenugreek, tarragon, Persian watercress or shaahi), a variety of flat breads, called naan or noon (sangak, lavash, barbari), cheese (called panir, a Persian variant of feta), sliced and peeled cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and onions, yoghurt, and lemon juice. Persian gherkins (khiyarshur) and pickles (Torshi) are also considered essential in most regions.

Tea (chai) is served at breakfast. At other times it is served based on the region, usually many times throughout the day. For example, in the province of Khorasan it is served immediately before and after lunch and dinner. The traditional methods of tea preparation and drinking differ between regions and peoples.

Regional cuisine

Northern Iran

Kateh is the traditional dish of Gilanmarker, and is simply Persian rice cooked in water, butter and salt until the water is fully absorbed. This method results in rice that is clumped together and is the predominant style of cooking rice in the Caspianmarker region. In Gilan and Mazandaranmarker, kateh is also eaten as a breakfast meal, either heated with milk and jam, or cold with Persian cheese (panir) and garlic. Kateh is commonly eaten in other parts of Iran because of its short cooking time and easy preparation, and is prescribed widely as a natural remedy for those who are sick with the common cold or flu, and also for those suffering from stomach pains and ulcers.The famous Iranian caviar and Caspian fish roes hails from that region, and is served with eggs, in frittatas (kuku sabzi) or omelettes.

Gilan and Mazandaran is probably home to the most numerous list of recipes compared to other regions. Some Gilani and Mazandarani delicious dishes are:

  • Khalou Abeh
  • Kolucheh Fuman
  • Kolucheh Lahijan
  • kuku Eshpel
  • Kuku gerdu
  • Longi
  • Mahi Dudi
  • Mahi Fibij
  • Mast o Khiar (a Meze)
  • Mirza Qasemi
  • Morabaye Badrang
  • Morabaye Bahar Narenj(Orange flower jam)
  • Morabaye Gol Mohammadi
  • Morabaye Kadu
  • Morabaye Shaqayeq
  • Morabaye Velesh
  • Morabaye Zoqal Akhteh
  • Morq-e Torsh
  • Naz Khatun

  • Piyaz Torshi (pickled onions)
  • Reshteh Khoshkar
  • Rob e Narenj
  • Rob e Anar
  • Rob e Sir Torsh
  • Shah Kuku
  • Shami-e Rashti
  • Sheshandaz
  • Shirin Tareh
  • Shur Mahi
  • Sirabij
  • Sir Qaliyeh
  • Sir Torshi (pickled garlic)
  • Spinach thick soup (Ash-e Esfenadj)
  • Torshi Kebab
  • Torsh Shami
  • Torsh Tareh
  • Vavishka
  • Yaralmasi Torshi
  • Zeytun Parvardeh (a Meze)

The Gilani variety of rice is considered one of the best in Iran, where it has been in use since the fourth century BCE.

Eating fresh raw Mazandarani broad beans is common in Gilan and Mazanderan, either alone or with cooled Kateh, salted fish eggs (Ashpel ); but selling and enjoying (especially by people of the lower classes) of hot cooked broad beans (bāqelā-garmak) sprinkled with salt and powdered Persian marjoram (golpar) are not an uncommon street scene in cold weather almost everywhere in Iran. The Gilani dish Baqali Qatoq is cooked with dill garlic, and turmeric, into which eggs are emptied at the end.


See Khuzestan: People and Culture


Esfahanmarker in Central Iran is home to some well known and culturally significant Persian foods including:

  • Fesenjan - a casserole type dish with a sweet and tart sauce containing the two base ingredients, pomegranate puree and ground walnut cooked with either chicken, duck, lamb or beef and served with rice.

  • Gaz - the name given to Persian Nougat using the sap collected from angebin, a plant from the Tamarisk family found only on the outskirts of Esfahan. It is mixed with various ingredients including rose water, pistachio and almond kernels and saffron.

  • Sohan-e-Asali (Honey Toffee) - A toffee made from honey and butter flavoured with cardamom and saffron and coated with slivered almond and pistachio kernels. Very yummy and very fattening!

  • "Khoresht-e-mast" - is a traditional dish in Esfahan. Unlike other stews despite its name it is not served as a main dish and with rice; since it is more of a sweet pudding it is usually served as a side dish or dessert. The dish is made with yogurt, lamb/mutton or chicken, saffron, sugar and orange peels. Iranians either put the orange pells in water for one week or longer or boil them for few minutes so the orange peels become sweet and ready for use. People in Iran make a lot of delicate dishes and jam with hull of fruits. This dish often accompanies celebrations and weddings.

  • Esfahan is also famous for Beryani-Biryani. This dish is made of mutton or lamb which is ground/minced and then cooked on one side in a special small pan over open fire. Beryani is generally eaten with a certain type of bread, "nan-e-tafttoon".


Sample of Tabrizi traditional food.
Shown here: Kufteh Tabrizi.
  • Ghormeh sabzi (Herb Stew) and Gheimeh (Split-pea Stew) are traditional stews of Azerbaijan.
  • Aash (Thick Soup) is popular food in Azerbaijan.The word Aash had passed from Persian into the Central Asian Turkic languages.Varieties of Aash (Thick Soup) in Azerbaijan include :
:Kahskh Aash (Dried Whey Thick Soup)
:Turshulu Aash (Sour Thick Soup)
:Yogurtlu Aash (Yogurt Thick Soup)
:Isfanaj Aashi (Spinach Thick Soup)
:Aash Mast (Yogurt-soup) (in Ardabilmarker)

  • Ghabli is traditional dish in Azerbaijan.This dish is made of rice, lentil, meat, potato and groats.

Southern Iran

Central Iran

Traditional Iranian cookies with raisins:"Shirini Keshmeshi"


  • Kaak, Naan-berenji, Khoresht-e Khalal and Sibb-polo in Kermanshahmarker
  • Yekaveh, Gheimeh Tarreh, Ash-e Shalami and Bourany in Kurdistanmarker

Traditional Iranian table settings

Typical table setting and elements of a popular Iranian dish.
traditional Iranian table setting firstly involves the tablecloth, called sofreh, and is spread out over a Persian rug or table. Main dishes are concentrated in the center, surrounded by smaller dishes containing appetizers, condiments, side dishes, as well as bread, all of which are nearest to the diners. These latter dishes are called mokhalafat (accompaniments). When the food has been served, an invitation is made to all those seated at the sofreh to help themselves.

Structure of meals

Breakfast (sobhaneh (صبحانه) or nāshtāyi (ناشتايى))

The basic traditional Iranian breakfast consists of a variety of flat breads (naan-e sangak, naan-e lavash, and others), butter, Tabrizimarker white cheese (paneer), feta cheese, whipped heavy cream (sarshir, often sweetened), and a variety of fruit jams and spreads. Other popular traditional breakfasts (which require far more preparation) include haleem (wheatmeal served plain or more commonly with shredded lamb or turkey - similar to Western oatmeal in some respects), asheh mohshalah (thick soup). These latter breakfasts are typically regional specialities, and many cities and towns all across Iran feature their own distinct versions of these dishes. Both asheh mohshalah and haleem are typically prepared the night before, to be served the next morning, and haleem is usually only served at certain times of the year (haleem specialty restaurants are only open during those times), except in southern parts of Iran, where haleem is always present. Kaleh pacheh is almost always only served from three in the morning until sometime after dawn, and specialty restaurants (serving only kaleh pacheh) are only open during those hours.

Lunch and dinner (naahaar or shaam)

Traditional Persian cooking is done in stages, at times needing hours of preparation and attention. The outcome is a well-balanced mixture of herbs, meat, beans, dairy products, and vegetables. Major staples of Iranian food that are usually eaten with every meal include rice, various herbs (mint, basil, dill, parsley), cheese (feta or Persian panir, derived from goat or sheep's milk, and sometimes cow's milk), a variety of flat breads, and some type of meat (usually poultry, beef, lamb, or fish). Stew over rice is by far the most popular dish, and the constitution of these vary by region. Tea (chai) is the drink of choice on nearly every occasion, and is usually served with dried fruit, pastries, or sweets.

You can usually find tea brewing throughout the day in most Iranian homes. Doogh, a yogurt drink, is also quite popular. One of the oldest recipes, which can trace its existence back to the time of Persian empire, is khoresht-e-fesenjan, consisting of duck or sometimes chicken in a rich pomegranate-and-walnut sauce that yields a distinctive brown color, most often served with white rice.

Fast food, imported and adapted foods

Popular fast food items in Iran include chelow kabab (literally "rice and kabab"), joojeh kabab (the same, but substituting grilled or broiled chicken), naan o kabab (literally "bread with kabab"), kabab sandwiches, and a number of different derivatives of traditional slow-cooked meals. An increasing preference for American style food amongst a younger generation of Iranians has resulted in the establishment of many pizza, steak, hamburger, and fried chicken establishments, but Western food is sometimes served alongside staples such as those mentioned above, and is often prepared differently (most notably with pizza). Chinese and Japanese cuisine has also become popular in recent years, primarily in Tehranmarker, and Italian and Mediterranean restaurants are also featured. The noted influence of European and American culture before the Islamic Revolution has also imparted preparations such as bechamel, gigots, milanesas and others to Iran.

Historical Iranian Cookbooks

Although the Arabic cookbooks written under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate include some recipes with Persian names and clearly derived from Persian cuisine , the earliest classical cookbooks in Per­sian that have survived are two volumes from the Safavid period. The older one is the Kār-nāmeh dar bāb-e tabbākhī va sanat-e ān "Manual on cooking and its craft" written in 927/1521 by Ḥājī Moḥammad-ʿAlī Bāvaṛčī Baḡdādī for an aristocratic patron at the end of the reign of Shah Esmail . The book originally contained twenty-six chapters, listed by the author in his introduction, but chapters 23-26 are missing from the unique surviving manuscript .The recipes include measurements for ingredients; often detailed directions for the prepa­ration of dishes, including the types of utensils and pots to be used; and instructions for decorating and serving them. In general the ingredients and their combinations in various recipes do not differ signifi­cantly from those in use today. The large quantities specified, as well as the generous use of such luxury ingredients as saffron, suggest that these dishes were prepared for large aristocratic households, even though in his introduction , the author claimed to have written it for the benefit of the nobility, as well as the public.

The second surviving Safavid cookbook, Māddat al-ḥayāt, resāla dar ʿelm-e ṭabbākī "The substance of life, a treatise on the art of cooking" was written about seventy-six years after the Kār-nāma by Nūr-Allāh, a chef for Shah Abbās. The introduction of that book includes elaborate praise of God, the prophets, the imams, and the shah, as well as a definition of a master chef. It is followed by six chapters on the preparation of various dishes: four on rice dishes, one on qalya, and one on Ash. The measurements and directions are not as detailed as in the Kār-nāma. The information pro­vided is about dishes prepared at the royal court, including references to a few that had been created or improved by the shahs themselves; other famous contemporary cooks and their specialties are also mentioned.

The most popular contemporary Iranian cookbook is authored by Roza Montazemi.

Persian cuisine in the West

One of the main reasons that Persian cuisine is not widely recognized is that it is often confused with Middle Eastern cuisine, a much broader and more general term, and this confusion is further perpetuated by restaurants and markets providing authentic Persian cuisine that label themselves as such.

Many Persian super-markets and restaurants are labelled as Middle Eastern, International, or Mediterraneanmarker in order to broaden their appeal to the Western consumer. In reality, Persian cuisine is one of the oldest and richest cuisines in the world, and- except for the shared dishes with neighbouring cuisines, during Ottoman contacts- is typically vastly different from what is found in the greater Middle East.

It should be mentioned that Persian cuisine has lots of similarity to Turkish and Greek cuisines in its Kebabs and other dishes as Greece and Turkey were part of the ancient great Persian empire. Although not widely recognised, Persian cuisine is gaining popularity in multicultural cities, especially in Londonmarker, Los Angelesmarker, Vancouvermarker, Washington, D.C.marker, and Torontomarker, which have a significant Persian population. Los Angeles and its environs, in particular, are well known for the number and quality of Persian restaurants which are usually centered around Kebab, but almost always also serve various stews as well.

Another reason for the relative obscurity of Persian cuisine is the lack of professional restaurant management. Many Persian restaurants (at least in smaller towns or those with smaller Persian populations) are started by immigrants who have little or no experience in the food and catering business. This lack of experience often means the proprietors focus most of their energies on preparing and providing good quality food but very little on marketing, ambience and service. Many such businesses die in obscurity despite the high quality and authenticity of their food.

Photo Gallery

Image:Six types of caviar.jpg|Iranian caviarImage:Fesenjan.jpg|A bowl of chicken fesenjan, with Persian riceFile:Dizi.jpg|DiziFile:Dizi plate.jpg|Abgoosht plateFile:Nan sangak.jpg|SangakFile:Juje kabab.jpg|Jujeh kababFile:Ash dogh01.jpg|Ash dough (Yogurt-soup) of Ardabilmarker

References and footnotes

  1. Some Iranian Pastries with images

Further reading

See also

External links

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