What Is Persian Food?
Persian food is predominantly the cuisine of Iran. Its unique gastronomy has been shaped by Iran's old history and culture. The different regions of Iran have their own culinary characteristics but if we were to describe it in few words, Persian food is balanced, exquisite, fragrant, and Exotic.
One of the most common questions I get asked is "is your food spicy"?
My answer always is: Well, it depends on where in Iran you are coming from. Northern Iranian food is not spicy at all, and the further south you go, the food gets spicier. Although, the spiciest food from Iran is still not as spicy as say Indian or South Asian food.
The first time I had spicy food in my life was when I travelled to Thailand and had my first ever Green Curry (which I loved). Red chili is not a common spice in North Iranian cuisine, where my dad is from. But as you travel further south towards the region near the Persian Gulf, you will find more and more 'spice' is introduced into the food.
To introduce heat into the food, Iranians usually use the almighty black pepper. Persian food is mild. There is no overpowering smell, taste, or colour because it is all about balance. Iranians use lots of dried fruits such as plums, barberries, and aromatic herbs and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron in most main dishes.
Iran’s geography, history, and cultural influences have shaped the diversity of ingredients and the methods of cooking in one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures. Persia –old Iran – has been subjected to repeated invasions, but it has maintained its culture, language, and identity throughout the centuries.
The vast size of the country encompasses a wide array of local dialects, lifestyles, regional traditions, and customs, not to mention an extraordinary variety of landscapes and climates.
All these are reflected in the country’s food. In the north, around the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, the landscape is lush and green and as a result of plentiful rainfall, there is a great diversity of fruit, vegetables, and herbs.
The northern regional cuisine features simple, fresh notes of taste and aroma, and there is a preference for sweet and sour flavours, as opposed to spicy. Further south, in the provinces near the Persian Gulf, where the climate is drier, the season for fresh ingredients is much shorter and the variety available is not the same as the rest of the country.
Rice. Iranians are very particular about their rice. Rice is at the very heart of Persian cooking. Persian rice is long grain. It is normally soaked and then boiled and steamed, giving it a distinct fluffiness. It is mixed with butter and saffron and forms a delicious crust at the bottom called 'Tah-dig'. See my recipe for an easy Persian rice here
Persian food uses many super-food ingredients. Turmeric and black pepper are the base of almost every dish. Healthy nuts such as walnuts and almonds; fruits high in antioxidants such as pomegranates, raisin, and citrus; are widely used in many different recipes. Deep-fried food is not common in Persian cuisine, and most dishes are serves with a side of yoghurt which is a probiotic.
With rice being its main staple, Persian foods are majority gluten free, making it a perfect choice for those who live with gluten intolerance or are coeliac.
If you are on a keto or LowFODMAP diet you also will find a range of diet-friendly Persian stews such as Ghormeh Sabzi , or Celery Stew to choose from.
With all the information above you probably have guessed the answer to this question. Persian food is not Mediterranean. However, it is very similar in terms of using super food ingredients with balanced flavours. So if you like Mediterranean food, you will LOVE the cuisine of Iran.
Exotic Bazaar is an Australian small family ran business with the purpose of introducing the world to the hidden gems of Middle Eastern and West Asian cuisine. One challenge with this food is the amount of effort required for each recipe. That is why Exotic Bazaar has created an excuisite range of recipe bases that have modernised these historical recipes and made them suitable to your everyday busy lifestyle.
No matter your cooking style, Exotic Bazaar has something for you to add an exotic touch to your everyday cooking.