Persian Cuisine stretches back through the annals of time and its excellence can be found being reflected in ancient Greek texts.
The Greeks wondered in astonishment of the mouthwatering feasts of Darius the Great and Xerxes. Evidence of these lavish feasts can be found on the walls of Persepolis which is modern day Shiraz. On these walls, it depicts the Nowruz feast where citizens from across the Persian Empire would come to give the Shah gifts.
What do Iranians eat? Due to the range of culinary traditions across the Iranian provinces, food in Iran is extremely diverse. Common to all the Iranian provinces however, is the fact that Iranian food tends to be both healthy and nutritious.
It includes a wide variety of foods ranging from Chelow Kebab (rice served with roasted meat), Khoresht (stew served Iranian rice: Ghormeh Sabzi, Gheimeh, Fesenjān, and others), Āsh (a thick soup: for example Āsh-e anār), Kuku (vegetable soufflé), Polo (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.
To taste true Iranian food, it is necessary to eat at an Iranian’s house. Since most restaurants in Iran limit the food they sell to different types of kebab and there is therefore, very little variety.
Even if you are staying with an Iranian family, it is likely that at some point you will eat in a restaurant (eventually a traditional one) and if this is the case, you are likely to be happy with the standards of cleanliness and hygiene. As with any country however, it is advisable to only eat hot food from street stalls and you should make efforts to observe how the food has been cooked e.g. ensuring sufficient standards of cleanliness).
Food in Iran is hygienically safe and clean, and almost everywhere plastic gloves are used to handle food. On very hot summer days avoid eating minced meat, grilled liver, or any other food that looks as if it may possibly have been sitting around. When choosing a place for eating, see that it looks clean and is reasonably crowded, and also that the vendor looks clean and healthy.
As a general description, food in Iran tends to be colorful, healthy and simple. Taste is added via herbs, light spices and fruit and the resulting dishes are mild as opposed to spicy
A standard Iranian meal starts with a basic, prefabricated green salad, radioactive-pink dressing and soup of pearl barley called Soup-e Jo. some places include these in a total set-meal price but usually they are charged separately. Even in restaurants with a long menu, 90% of the main-dish options are likely to be Kababs hat are served either on bread or as Chelo Kabab with rice with a pair of grilled tomatoes.
In Iran, dining out can range from stand-up sandwich to luxurious five-course meals. You can find small, inexpensive establishments that serve good Iranian food for only a few dollars. If you think of having a quick eats then try shops selling a range of bread roll sandwiches topped off with tomatoes and pickles. The larger cities even have Western-style fast-food chains that are designed and decorated like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but they’re relatively expensive. In cities both food and water are safe although the change in your diet may produce short-term gastrointestinal upsets.
Rice in Iran
Rice (berenj) is a staple of any Iranian meal and the most beautiful variations of rice based meals are found in Iran. Rice preparation is indeed an art in Iran and in great contrast to the majority of countries who merely boil their rice.
Variations of this Iranian food art include rice preparation over a 24 hour time frame, boiling, steaming, cooking with yoghurt or egg to produce a tasty crunchy crust, adding saffron, berries, herbs, spices and meat for color and flavor.
Desserts in Iran
Great efforts are made when making sweet foods in Iran. Every Iranian province has its own traditions and approach to produce these exotic desserts and fruits such as dates and nuts are common ingredients. However, Iranians will generally only eat sweet food and desserts on special occasions due to their love of fruit. You will find that Iranians use any opportunity to get out the fruit bowl – to welcome a guest after lunch, tea or dinner.
Drinking in Iran
Tea: Iranian adopted the custom of drinking tea from time to time during the day, and tea is served with chunks of sugar on the side and is served in glasses.
Drinking Coffee in Iran: The traditional Iranian Coffee, although is not as popular as tea, but is like Turkish coffee, served strong, sweet black and booby-trapped with a sediment of grounds. However, there’s a new urban fashion for coffee-houses that usually double as trendy ice-cream parlours.
Fruit Juices and soft drinks: A delectable treat in Iran are the fresh fruit juices called Ab-e mive available at any shops throughout Iran. There are milkshakes, Pomegranate Juice, honey-dew mellon, watermelon, Orange Juice, Apple Juice and carrot Juice mixed with ice-cream in summer season.
Soft drinks are ubiquitous in Iran, but most are domestically bottled. You can find Fanta, Seven-Up, Coke, and Pepsi.