Cuisine of Iran is of a wide variety and the culinary of Iran reflects the tradition of the country and the region in a great way. Cuisine of Iran comprises of both cooked and raw foods. The cooked foods are mostly non-vegetarian and the raw foods comprises of fruits and nuts, herbs and vegetables. Cuisine of Iran speaks of the wide variety of appetizers and desserts that is more famous all over the world. Cuisine of Iran goes bland without the spices used in a special way in most of the dishes. Some of the major dishes that Cuisines of Iran extensively and importantly consists of are the rice, bread. There are varieties of rice preparation, the preparation differs with region and course of the meal. Chelow, Damy, Pollo and Katehare the most common rice preparation famous in Iran. The bread are referred to as Nan. Iranian Cuisines also stands famous because of the wide range of drink that they make from several fruits. The traditional drink that Iranian people have with the meal is known as Doogh. Sharbat and Khak sheer are the types of drink that is popular and famous in Iran.
The cuisine of Iran is diverse and each region has brought its own culinary traditions and styles, but common to all regions is the fact that Iranian foods tend to be both healthy and nutritious. With its long history and the series of people who have invaded Iran, they have contributed to the cuisine of Iran, just a few of these groups have been the Babylonians, the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Turks so from these names we can see straight away that the cuisine of Iran is going to be very tasty indeed. Main dishes are often including rice with meat, chicken or fish, flavoured with onions, vegetables, nuts and herbs, fresh green herbs are also frequently used along with fruits. Fruits which featured strongly include plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots and raisins. Plain yogurt is eaten at most meals and is a staple in the Iranian diet. Foods are flavoured with saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, garlic and parsley.
It is believed that rice (berenj in Persian) was brought to Iran from the Indian subcontinent in ancient times (about 4000 years ago). 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. Rice is a staple of any Iranian meal and the most beautiful variations of rice based meals are found in Iran, there is great care taken in the preparation of rice and is not merely boiled as in many other countries. Preparation for special dishes can take up to 24 hours with boiling, steaming and steeping in yoghurt beforehand.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. 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. 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, Nan-e lavash, Nan-e sangak and Nan-e taftoon.
The climate of the Middle East is perfect for the growing of fruits and the orchards and vineyards of Iran produce fruits of legendary flavour and size and are what some other countries may consider as ‘exotic’. A bowl of fresh fruit is common on most Iranian tables but fruit is not only used just for desserts but are also included in meat dishes. The fruits are not only eaten fresh but are also dried, such as dates, figs, apricots and peaches and these are included in many of Iran’s main meals. The Iranian diet of fruits, vegetables and herbs is considered to be very healthy. Iran is the top producer of dates in the world.
Commonly used with main meal dishes are vegetables such as pumpkin, spinach, green beans, broad beans, courgettes, squashes, carrots, and eggplants (aubergines) which are the most widely used vegetables in Iran. Also hugely popular is a dish of fresh green salads dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic,salt and pepper.
Iranian cooking has much in common with Middle Eastern cooking, where wheat is a staple, lamb and poultry are well-utilized and yoghurt is common. A distinctly sour flavour is evident in most Iranian dishes, and may be achieved through the addition of lemon, pomegranates or sour oranges. The dishes of Iran are often time-consuming slow-cooked affairs.
Dolmas are a popular food in Iran and are any vegetable of fruit stuffed with rice or a rice and meat mixture, they use grape vine leaves, cabbage leaves, spinach, eggplant, sweet peppers, tomatoes, apples and quince. The most popular are vine leaves which are prepared by lightly boiling the leaves in salted water before stuffing them with a mixture of minced meat, rice, fresh herbs and seasoning. These are then simmered in a sweet-sour mixture of lemon juice, sugar and water, but each family will have their own special recipe passed down through generations. These can then be served either hot or cold. The fruit Dolmas are a speciality of Persian cuisine, here the fruit is first cooked, then stuffed with meat, seasonings and often tomato sauce, these are then simmered in a meat broth or sweet-sour sauce.
In Iranian deserts Persian ice-cream (Bastani-e Akbar-Mashti or Gol-o Bolbol), are flavoured with saffron, rosewater and include a heavy cream. Sweets are separated into two categories Shirini Tar – moist sweets and Shirini Khoshk – dry sweets. The moist sweets consist of French-inspired pastries with whipped cream, glazed fruit toppings, tarts, custard filled éclairs, and a variety of cakes. These will have an Iranian twist with the inclusion of saffron, pistachios and walnuts. The dry sweets are more traditional Iranian 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. There is a Greek influence with the Halvā , which comes in various qualities and varieties, from mainly sugar to sesame seed paste and pistachios. Noghl, sugar-coated almonds, these are often served at Iranian weddings.
The traditional Drink to accompany Iranian dishes is Doogh which is a combination of yoghurt, water, salt and dried mint. There are sherbats known as Sharbat and Khak Shir, carrot juice with ice cream and garnished with cinnamon, nutmeg and spices. Refreshing drinks that are served sererately include banana milk shakes – Sheer Moz-, cantaloupe-melon juice – Aab Talebi – and watermelon juice and Aab Hendevaneh- these are on offer on stands and kiosks, there is also now pomegranite juice which is hugely popular.In Iran you are likely to be offered tea in a glass (always black), famous Shirazi Faloudeh and possibly coffee – although coffee is not as popular in Iran and if you buy it in a restaurant or tea shop, it is likely to be fairly expensive.
Breakfast is called sobhāneh . The basic traditional Iranian breakfast consists of a variety of flat breads (nān-e sangak, nān-e lavāsh, 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.
Fragrant rice (برنج, berenj) is the staple of Iranian food. Boiled and then steamed, it is often coloured with saffron or flavoured with a variety of spices. When served plain as an accompaniment it is known as chelo (چلو). The two most common meat / chelo combinations are kebab variations (chelo kabāb, چلو کباب) or rotisserie chicken (chelo morgh, چلو مرغ). Flavoured rice, known as polo, is often served as a main course or as an accompaniment to a meat dish. Examples include shirin polo flavoured with orange zest, young cherries and honey glazed carrots, the broad-bean and herb heavy bāghli polo and sabzi polo laced with parsley, dill and mint.
The rice and kebab dish chelo kabāb (چلو کباب) and its half-dozen variations are the most common (and often the only) items on Iranian restaurant menus. A grilled skewer of meat
is served on a bed of fluffy rice, and accompanied by an array of condiments. You can add butter, grilled tomatoes and a sour spice known as somāgh to your rice, while some restaurants also provide a raw egg yolk. Raw onion and fresh basil are used to clear your palate between mouthfuls. Variations in kabāb dishes come from the meats they are served with. You will commonly see:
- Kabāb koobideh (كباب كوبيده) – a kebab of minced beef, shredded onion and spices.
- Kabāb barg (كباب برگ) – pieces of lamb marinated in lemon juice and shredded onion.
- Kabāb makhsoos (كباب مخصوص) – usually the most expensive option, this big kebab uses the highest quality meat.
- Joojeh kabāb (جوجه كباب) – a skewer of chicken pieces marinated in lemon juice and saffron.
- Kabāb bakhtiāri (كباب بختیارِی) – great for the indecisive eater, this is a skewer of alternating chicken and lamb pieces.
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