Iranian cuisine and Persian cuisine include the traditional and modern styles of cooking from Persia and Iran. Situated in the Middle East, the Iranian culinary style has historically both influenced and been influenced by Iran`s neighbouring regions at various stages throughout its history. Specifically, these have been mutual culinary influences to and from Mesopotamian cuisine, Anatolian cuisine, Caucasian cuisine, Indian cuisine, and Central Asian cuisine.The cuisine of Turkey is heavily influenced by that of Iran, due to geographical proximity, ethnic relations, and shared empires such as the Seljuks. Persian cuisine also influenced that of Afghanistan, and has spread into all but the southernmost parts of India during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire (see Mughlai cuisine). It also traveled west to influence the cuisines of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and thence into the cuisines of Russia and the Soviet Union. Many foods famously associated with Middle Eastern, and indeed World cuisine have their origins in Iran, such as kebab and ice cream, and cookies.
Fresh green herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Typical Persian main dishes 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 limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.
Iranian cuisine includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelow kabab (rice served with roasted meat: barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresht (stew that is served with white Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, fesenjān, and others), āsh (a thick soup: for example āsh-e anār), kuku (vegetable souffle), polo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including loobia polo, albaloo polo, sabzi polo, zereshk polo, 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.
It is unknown when rice (berenj in Persian) was brought to Iran from the Indian subcontinent. The use of it, at first a specialty of Safavid court cuisine, evolved by the end of the 16th century CE into a major branch of Iranian cookery. Varieties of rice in Iran include champa, rasmi, anbarbu, mowlai, sadri, khanjari, shekari, doodi, and others. Basmati rice from India and Pakistan 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 the rice growing region of northern Iran, and the homes of the wealthy, 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.
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. 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 Tabriz.
Nan-e lavash Thin, flaky and round or oval, and is also the oldest known bread in the Middle East and Caucasus.
Nan-e sangak Triangle-shaped bread that is stone-baked.
Nan-e taftoon Thin, but thicker than lavash, soft and round.
From crisp to limp, 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.
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 Armenian 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
Iran`s agriculture produces many fruits and vegetables, including what some other countries may consider “exotic”. A bowl of fresh fruit is common on most Persian tables and dishes of vegetables and herbs are standard sides to most meals.
The climate of the Middle East is conducive to the growing of fruits. These are not only enjoyed fresh and ripe as desserts but are also combined with meats and form unusual accompaniments to main dishes. When fresh fruits are not available, a large variety of dried fruits such as dates, figs, apricots and peaches are used instead. The list of fresh fruits includes dates and figs, many citrus fruits, apricots, peaches, sweet and sour cherries, apples, plums, pears, pomegranates and many varieties of grapes and melons. A small sweet variety of cucumber is popularly served as a fruit. Iran is one of the top date producers in the world; some special date cultivars, such as Rotab, are grown in Iran.
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 pumpkins, spinach, green beans, broad beans, courgettes, varieties of squashes, onions, garlic and carrots are commonly used in rice and meat dishes. Tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions often accompany a meal.
The term dolma describes any vegetable or fruit stuffed with rice or a rice-and meat mixture: grape 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 fresh herbs such as parsley, split peas, and seasoning. The dolmas are then simmered in a sweet-and-sour mixture of vinegar or lemon juice, sugar, and water. Fillings 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, tomatoes, and other vegetables are also stuffed.
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. 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
The above are only a few examples of the combination of meats and vegetables, or meats and fruits plus seasonings that may go into chelo khoresh, a favorite Iranian dish that is served at least once daily. This is a dish of crusty baked rice topped by one of the stews listed, or any one of dozens more, limited only by price and availability of ingredients.
Ab ghoreh, the juice of Ghoreh (unripe grapes) or Verjuice is used in various Iranian dishes. For example, it is an ingredient in Ash e sagh, a soup prepared with spinach, leeks, yellow split peas, and seasonings. Ab ghoreh is also used to simmer dolma-ye Kadu, stuffed summer squash. Ab ghoreh flavors several types of Khoresh like Khoresht-e Alu Esfenaj (stewed lamb with spinach and prunes), Khoresht-e Havij (stewed lamb with carrots), and Khoresht-e Chaghaleh badam (stewed lamb with fresh, unripe almonds). Unripe grapes are used whole in some dishes, such as Khoresht-e ghoreh (lamb stew with sour grapes). Ab ghoreh was frequently used until not too long ago also as a souring agent for a number of pickles, dried pickles, and spices. As a spice, Ghoreh powder (gard-e Ghoreh) was sometimes reinforced by Ab ghoreh and then dried.
The traditional drink accompanying Iranian dishes is doogh, a combination of yogurt, still or carbonated water, salt, and dried mint. Other drinks include sherbets known as 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 are not served with meals. These include Sheer Moz (banana milk shake), Aab Talebi (cantaloupe juice), and Aab Hendevaneh (watermelon juice). These 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. Sekanjebin is a thick syrup made from vinegar, mint and sugar, served mixed with carbonated or plain water. It can be drunk mixed with a little rosewater or used as a dip for Romaine lettuce.
Dessert dishes range from Bastani-e Za`farāni (Persian ice cream, also called Bastani-e Akbar-Mashti or Gol-o Bolbol) to faludeh (a frozen sorbet made with thin starch noodles and rosewater). Persian ice cream is flavored with saffron, rosewater, and includes chunks of heavy cream. There are also many types of sweets, divided 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 saffron, pistachios, and walnuts. The second category consists of more traditional Iranian sweets: Shirini-e Berenji (a type of rice cookie), Shirini-e Nokhodchi (clover-shaped chickpea flour cookies), Kolouche (a large cookie usually with a walnut or fig filling), Shirini-e Keshmeshi (raisin and saffron cookies), Shirini-e Yazdi (small cakes originating from the city of Yazd), Nan-e kulukhi (a kind of large thick cookie without any filling), and others.
Other popular sweets include Zulbia, Bamieh and Gush-e Fil. Bamieh is an oval-shaped piece of sweet dough, deep-fried, and then covered with a syrup traditionally made with honey. Bamieh is similar to tulumba, but much smaller, 2 or 3 centimeters wide at most. Zulbia is made of the same sort of batter, also deep-fried, but poured into the oil in swirls, then covered with the same syrup (or with honey). Goosh-e Fil (lit. elephant`s ear) is also made of deep-fried dough, in the shape of a flat elephant`s ear, and then covered with powdered sugar. One of the classics, Halvardeh (Tehrani for halvā-arde, from halvā, an Arabic loan word meaning `sweet`, plus arde, the Persian word for tāhini). Halvā comes in various qualities and varieties, from mainly sugar to sesame seed paste (the aforementioned Persian arde), and pistachios.
Noghl, sugar-coated almonds, are often served at Iranian weddings.
Vegetable - sabzi khordan
There are certain accompaniments (mokhalafat) that are essential to every Iranian lunch (nahar) and dinner (shaam), regardless of the region. These include a plate of fresh herbs, called sabzi khordan: basil, cilantro, Coriander, fenugreek, green onion, mint, radish (black, red, white), savory (marzeh, origany or sweet fennel), tarragon, Persian watercress or (shaahi), a variety of flat breads, called naan or noon (sangak, lavash, barbari), fresh white cheese (panir, somewhat similar to feta), walnut, sliced and peeled cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and onions, yogurt, and lemon juice. Persian gherkins (khiyarshur) and mixed pickles (Torshi) are also considered essential in most regions.
is served at breakfast. It may be served at other times, 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.
Structure of meals
Breakfast is called sobhāneh (Persian: صُبحانِه) or nāshtāyi (Persian: ناشتايى). The basic traditional Iranian breakfast consists of a variety of flat breads (nān-e sangak, nān-e lavāsh, "nan-e-pita", and others), butter, Tabrizi white cheese (panir), feta cheese, whipped heavy cream (Sarshir, often sweetened with Sabalan honey), or 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), āsheh mohshālāh (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 āsheh mohshālāh 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 paacheh(lit. sheep`s entire head and its hooves) is almost always only served from three in the morning until sometime after dawn, and specialty restaurants (serving only kaleh paacheh) are only open during those hours.
Iranian Jooje Kebab
Lunch and dinner (naahaar or shaam) are not distinguished in Persian. 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.
Using dairy products in Iranian cuisine has an old historical background, as an example, Kashk (dried condensed whey) is used in dishes like Kallajush. It consists of fried onions, dried herbs, and boiled Kashk, eaten with bread (crumbled or in pieces). Foods containing kashk, including kallajush, have been common among tribal peoples and villagers for centuries, especially in wintertime, as it is both easily prepared and affordable for low-income families. Kashk is quite nutritious and contains protein and calcium. Kashk processing was one of the easiest and most effective ways of conserving dairy products in hot climates during pre-modern times.
Popular fast food items in Iran include Chelow kabab (literally "rice and kabaab"), Jujeh kabab (the same, but substituting grilled or broiled chicken), nān o kabāb (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 Tehran, 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.
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 26 chapters, listed by the author in his introduction, but chapters 23 through 26 are missing from the 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 ṭabbākhī ("The substance of life, a treatise on the art of cooking"), was written about 76 years after the Kār-nāmeh 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 aash. The measurements and directions are not as detailed as in the Kār-nāmeh. 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 contemporary cooks and their specialties are also mentioned.