A visit to Iran yields a stunning variety of culinary delights. Between the familiar kebab and the decidedly outré grilled lamb’s testicles, there’s a vast spectrum of foods: caviar, pickle, and smoked fish in the north; samosas, falafel and hot and sour shrimp in the south; noodles, flatbread and rosewater-scented ice cream across the country.Take a look at Iran’s place on the map and it’s easy to understand why the scope of native foods is so wide. Once the center of the Persian Empire, Iran neighbors the former Soviet Union countries, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Arab states and Turkey. Although Iran is part of the Middle East, it has close ties to Europe, the Far East and Africa, owing to its central place on the Silk Road trade route. What’s more, the ancient warrior-king of Greece, Alexander the Great, conquered the Persian Empire back in the 4th century, and later it was invaded by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Uzbeks. While Iranians already had a well-developed food identity before these invasions, they assimilated what the outsiders brought in. Think Russian-style borscht with cumin and cilantro and Chinese noodles in a soup of beans, herbs and sour fermented whey. Many coveted ingredients are native to Iran, including pistachios, almonds, walnuts, saffron, mint, oranges, pomegranates and grapes. Iran has a variable climate with four distinct seasons, and unlike other parts of the Middle East, where the dry terrain limited what food could be grown, the ancient Persians transformed vast stretches of arid land into fertile oases via underground aquifers that drew melted snow water into the desert. A bright, sensuous, fruit-and-herb filled cuisine was born.
1) Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi
i What is it: An herbed rice pilaf complimented with white fishes (either Caspian kutum or halibut). Sabzi means vegetables, polo means steamed rice and mahi denotes fish. Iranian people serve this dish on their new year’s day, Nowruz. What does it taste like: The delicious green rice will leave you spellbound with a rich taste of herbs. This dish offers a complete package of tastes to make you drool over it.
What is it: Popularly known as Khoresh-e fesenjān, this meaty stew with pomegranate syrup reflects the dexterity of Iranian people regarding the culinary skill. What does it taste like: This is a hearty stew offering the taste of chicken or duck enhanced with crushed walnuts and often served as a complimentary dish of any rice preparation.
What is it: Popularly known as qeymeh, there are two types of this stew known as gheimeh sibzamini and gheimeh bademjan. This is traditionally garnished with French fries and served with aromatic rice. What does it taste like: The taste of split peas, tomatoes, dried lime, and onion along with French fries and eggplants is simply divine.
i What is it: Also known as qormeh sabzi, this flavorful herbal stew is considered as the national dish. The international ghormeh sabzi day is observed on every last Saturday of November. What does it taste like: The mixed taste of coriander, fenugreek leaves, kidney beans, and black lime will leave you speechless.
What is it: A stew preparation with celery and meat as main ingredients. What does it taste like: The healthy green stew is so mouth-watering that you will crave for more. This finely cooked dish will steal your heart with a fresh taste of meat, celery, parsley along with lime juice
What is it: Chicken, yogurt, and egg based rice cake. What does it taste like: This authentic Iranian dish has a strong flavor of saffron. The topping known as tahdig is opulent with chicken, but sometimes fish and other vegetables are used. The lower or base part is purely made of white rice.
7) Zereshk Polo
What is it: A rice preparation made with barberries.Traditionally served with chicken pieces, due to its garnishing with barberries, it is known as jeweled rice. If you ever attend an Iranian wedding, you will find this item for sure. What does it taste like: The subtle taste of rice along with saffron, lemon juice, and other spices is rightly enhanced by almonds and pistachios.