Typical Iranian main dishes are combinations of rice with meat, vegetables, and nuts. Herbs are frequently used, along with fruits such as plums, apricots, prunes, pomegranates, quince, and raisins. Characteristic Iranian flavorings such as saffron, dried lime and other sources of sour flavoring like turmeric, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed and used in various dishes.
Fesenjan (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)
This iconic stew, an essential part of every Persian wedding ceremony menu, is made of tart pomegranate with chicken or duck. Pomegranate paste, ground walnuts and onions are slowly simmered to make a thick sauce. Sometimes cinnamon and saffron are added, and maybe a pinch of sugar to balance the acid.
Zereshk Polo (Barberry Rice)
This classic rice dish is studded with the barberries, which are dried and then rehydrated before cooking. The rice is cooked with plenty of butter, to helps soften the intensity of the berries.
Gormeh Sabzi (Green Herb Stew)
Made from lots of herbs, kidney beans and lamb, deep green gormeh sabzi satisfies two Persian flavor obsessions: it’s sour and full of herbs. The stew is seasoned with dried limes. These limes are extra sour, with a bittersweet taste that gives the stew a unique flavor. The other constant herbs in gormeh sabzi include fenugreek leaves, parsley, coriander and scallions.
Khoresht Gheimeh is a beef and split pea stew made with dried limes and cooked in a tomato base, usually served with fried potatoes on the top.
Ash e Reshteh (Noodle and Bean Soup)
A richly textured soup full of herbs, leafy greens like spinach and beet leaves, noodles and beans. It’s topped with crunchy fried onions, mint oil and sour kashk, a fermented whey product eaten in the Middle East that tastes akin to sour yogurt. The noodles, which made their way from China to Iran, are thought to represent the many paths of life.
Kebab (Lamb, Chicken, Lamb Liver, Ground Meat)
Kebabs have more variety than you might think. First, there’s koobideh, ground meat seasoned with minced onion, salt and pepper. It sounds simple but the taste is sublime. There is kebab-e barg, thinly sliced lamb or beef, flavored with onion and lemon juice and basted with saffron and butter. Chicken kebab, known as joojeh, is traditionally made from a whole chicken, bones and all, for more flavor marinated in lemon and onion, and basted with saffron and butter.
Also known as ‘Abgoosht’, this meat and bean is essentially a stew made up of lamb and chickpeas with a tomato base. It is usually served in a stone dish called a dizi – hence the name.
Sabzi Khordan (Herb and Cheese Plate)
No Persian meal is complete without a dish of sabzi khordan, or edible herbs. The plate can include tarragon, mint, basil and cilantro, alongside radishes, scallions, walnuts, feta cheese and Iranian nan (flatbread). The plate stays on the table throughout the meal, and the herbs are a crunchy palate cleanser between bites of stew and rice. Both fresh and dried green herbs are eaten daily in Iran. The Zoroastrian New Year Norooz celebrates rebirth and renewal, and the Norooz menu includes several dishes made with green herbs representing new life, including rice with herbs, an herb omelet and the herb platter.