Everyone knows that Persians have a thing for pomegranates, rosewater and all sorts of yummy fluffy saffron rice. What is less known is that we also have a major yen for yogurt. A bowl of yogurt is nearly always served with lunch and dinners as either a condiment or side dish or sauce; and we also have many yogurt-based dishes in the Persian culinary repertoire. It’s safe to state that yogurt is among the major staples of the Persian cuisine.
For example you may recall borani, a vegetarian genre of Persian dishes made with yogurt mixed with various types of veggies. Yogurt is also a tried and true ingredient liberally used in or added to hearty soups (like ash ‘e mast or ash ‘e reshteh); we also have yogurt as the essential and star ingredient of popular side dishes like mast ‘o khiar; and of course, last but not least, let’s not forget that yogurt is the main ingredient of doogh, a most popular Persian soft drink. (Remember this lovely dude?)
Today I have for you a refreshing yogurt-based dish — a deceptively humble yet classic Persian delight called abdoogh khiar — that comes to you courtesy of an adorable relative of mine, nameed Valeh. How are Valeh and I related? Well, let’s put it this way: our fathers are brothers. Ha ha, yes, what I’m saying is that Valeh is my cousin or dokhtar amoo (literally: daughter of paternal uncle) as we say in Farsi.
Abdoogh khiar itself may be said to be a cousin of mast ‘o khiar, as they are quite similar, which is fitting then that the recipe is courtesy of your faithful blogger’s lovely cousin, Valeh.
Now I have to digress and tell you that Valeh is a beautiful Kurdish name that means “to be besotted by” and it’s an apt name for my very pretty cousin and her pretty green eyes. One of the many interesting facts about Valeh is that she lived in Japan for a few years where among other things she picked up the art of Ikebana (flower arrangements) that she enjoys greatly and practices beautifully. Valeh has a fine arts degree from the University of Tehran; an interior design degree from here in the U.S.; and most importantly, she has arguably the most adorable little girl in the world.
Aside #1: Thomas Jefferson, as it so happens, is my second favorite historical American. I kind of lurv him. Care to guess who’s my number one? Well, it’s a tie between Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln. I’m ardently passionate about both of those lovely American gents. By the way if you care for that sort of thing, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend this podcast: The Jefferson Hour. It’s amazing!
Aside #2: If you think this photograph is the only Persian connection with good ol’ Thomas Jefferson, think again! On a whim and just for the hell of it, I Googled “Jefferson and Persian” without having the slightest expectation of finding anything and then THIS turns up: Cyrus Cylinder: How a Persian monarch inspired Jefferson. I mean!!!
Going back to our regularly scheduled programming, namely abdoogh khiar, that exquisitely simple chilled Persian yogurt and cucumber summer time soup:
Valeh like to add bread torn into small pieces to the yogurt soup, just like you might do with abghusht. That’s why Valeh likes to call abdoogh khiar a summer-time abghoosht!
You guys, this post is nothing more than a shameless plug for a Persian cooking class workshop that I’m offering on August 23rd in the merry state of Maryland. If you’re going to be in the DC area that day, do come, won’t you?
I’m calling the class a “Persian Culinary Feast Workshop” which is a mouthful but it’s apt because it will yield much delicious mouthfuls, and will cover a few essential genres of Persian cuisine into the bargain.
What’s on the yummy-for-your tummy learning agenda you ask? Why, let me tell you:
Persian Rice 101; green bean khoresh; Persian cucumber & mint yogurt soup; doogh; and we’ll end on the heady note of how to hack a plain vanilla ice cream into a sensory overload that is the delightful Persian saffron, rosewater & cardamom ice cream with pistachio slivers.
Here’s the link to the Eventbrite page for more info and to register. Register, mark your calendars, and rev up your tummy + taste bud engines.
May I please ask for your help in spreading the news of this class? I would appreciate it greatly from the bottom of my shekamoo heart if you could please pass this info along to your Washington DC area friends or family who might be interested.
Your faithful blogger
In this fifth installment of “Drinking in Iran” — a photo-essay series documenting the tasty drinks (aka nooshidani) yours truly had to sip, gulp, swig, imbibe, taste, devour, knock back, or merely gaze at covetously during my sentimental and epic trip to Iran — I thought it was high time to talk about one of the most popular Persian soft drinks, and that would be … doogh.
Iranians love doogh! But what is doogh? Let’s commence with our pictorial journey to find out. (Warning: there may be many yummy Persian food pix along the way as well. Accordingly, proceed your viewing pleasure with caution.)
Some of my fond memories of my epic trip to Iran include sprints over to my Aunt Fuzy’s house and spending a bunch of fun quality times there with a few of my favorite relatives.
Aunt Fuzy (isn’t that the cutest nickname?) is known for her refined elegance, wit and kind nature.
Khaleh Fuzy is also famous for her fabulous torshi — Persian pickles, that is!
Would you like the recipe and to see more pix? Sure you do! CLICK here to continue!
In Iran, it’s customary to celebrate one’s good news with “shirini dadan” (offering sweets and pastries) to pleasure and delight the sense and palette of others in recognition of one’s own sweet turn of events. And in turn, friends and family present the person with the happy news some flowers by way of congratulations. And of course as I’ve mentioned, people snap their fingers and “beshkan mizanand” ha ha, just like George Clooney, when feeling particularly exuberant and filled with joy! So let’s put on a cheerful Persian song, shake our groove thing, and let’s snap our fingers. And oh, here, I have some sweets and flowers for us all as well. Dahanemoon ro shirin konim!
But first I want to address the naysayers; hatemongers; warmongers; always-complainers; those who only see the clouds and never the silver lining; those who never notice the rainbow but only the downfall of the rain; and say: Here … Here are some flowers, and please also have some shirini and sweeten your palette!
Because this.THIS. Is a buzz you can’t kill. Because this is a way towards peace and better understanding and cultural exchange and because “hope is a thing with feathers” and it’s a beautiful thing when it takes wing. And that’s the way the cookie crumbles for yours truly. #IranDeal #HAPPY!
Now let’s all go and have lots of yummy Persian shirini!
My friends, here’s to realizing dreams for peace, love and harmony.
Kumbaya, my friends! KUMBAYA!!!!
This fourth installment of “Drinking in Iran” — a photo-essay series documenting the tasty drinks (aka nooshidani) yours truly had to sip, gulp, swig, imbibe, taste, devour, knock back, or merely gaze at covetously during my sentimental and epic trip to Iran — brings us to covering that universally beloved beverage without which most of us would lose our ever loving mind. Namely: coffee! Cup of joe, java, or gahveh (قهوه) as we say in Farsi.
In other words: that without which life as we know it is surely not worth living! Hyperbole? I think not.
Coffee and cafe culture in Iran is well and alive and robustly kicking. There is a historic cultural precedent for coffee shops in Iran going a long way back to gahveh khaneh (literally “house of coffee”) where people – albeit mostly men – met to drink coffee or tea, play backgammon, smoke ghelyoon and basically gab and socialize and even do business; and onwards to more modern iterations of cafes and also hybrid coffee-shop-pastry-shops known as cafe ghanadi or cafe confectionaries. (Peruse this Iran Review article of Old Cafe Confectionaries of Tehran for an interesting read.)
Now let’s grab a cup of nice strong coffee (milk, no sugar please) and take a look at yours truly’s slightly jittery and entirely intoxicating caffeinated pictorial journey.
Cafe Lord Confectionary. I was taken here by a friend who by a lucky stroke of fortune was also visiting Tehran in Norooz (a dear friend who, by the way, is the brains behind Rtister – a fashionable operation!)
After she left, I pored over the map of Tehran and tried to get familiar with this sprawling metropolis of my vatan.
The writing at the bottom of this take-out coffee cup reads: “You will soon feel better.” Heh!
I imbibed this much-needed cup of coffee at the Tajrish branch of Lamiz Coffee Shop — a trendy chain of coffee shops in Tehran. (A business establishment that seems to cultivate, pride themselves on, and encourage a distinctly hipstersque aura and culture. To wit!) To which one may say: chera ke’h na? Why not indeed.
I ended up at this coffee shop thanks to another good friend who showed me around Tajrish. A very fun outing and venture.
(If you’ve been reading for awhile, you may recall that I wrote about the whole escapade here earlier: A Modern Coffee Shop & a Traditional Tea House Joint | A Stroll in Tajrish Square & through the Tajrish Bazaar.)
Then I ended up at this other cafe off of Jordan Avenue with my cousin.
We toasted to her birthday with frothy foamy coffee and a slice of cake. It was a good place to people watch too!
At some point, a street musician walked in. He was warmly received and in turn he really warmed up the place with his cheerful music. Quite a lively scene!
Another day. Another #latteart coffee. Another outdoor garden Persian cafe. Tough life!
Note the calligraphy logo of the sugar packet. It’s striking, isn’t it?
I distinctly remember nursing this coffee and keeping up with my blogging duties at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran while I was waiting for my flight to Shiraz.
This coffee: Hit. The. Spot!
But you know the coffee that really hit the spot when I was in Iran?
Nescafe instant coffee!
On a road trip with two friends — making our way from Tehran to the Caspian sea.
Prepared over the hood of Afooli’s SUV!
it didn’t hurt that we saw this view on our road trip either!
Ah, Mount Damavand! How majestic and glorious and breathtaking are you? The pictures do not do you justice.
So you drink the Turkish coffee (thick bitter black without sugar of course) until only a little bit of it is left behind. You then make a niyat (solemn wish or query) and turn the cup bottoms-up over the saucer. The designated fortune teller then tells you what the future holds by “reading” and deciphering the significance and meaning of the the trail of the coffee – looking at the marks and ridges and shapes it has left behind. After that initial reading, you make another silent “niyat” (a thing you hope for or are curious about) and make an imprint with your index finger in the center of the cup. The fortune teller then “reads” that and makes remarks meant to answer your niyat. And that’s it.
Fal ‘eh gahveh (fortune telling with Turkish coffee) in Iran is a plausible possibility to take place at a social gathering. Usually, every family has at least a couple of people (men or women) who claim to possess this coffee-fortune-telling gift and skill. Sure enough, at a family luncheon at my aunt’s Fuzzy’s home (more on my lovely aunt later when I share her famous torshi recipe), one of my cousins said, “let’s have Turkish coffee and I’ll read everyone’s fortune.” Of course she didn’t have to make that offer twice. Turkish coffee was promptly brewed, we all drank our coffee, and we all eagerly and solemnly lined up for our ‘fal ‘e gahveh.” It was a lot of fun!
This ritual is mostly meant to be an entertaining parlor game, an old cultural custom which is not really meant to be taken seriously at all — although sometimes, astonishingly and bewilderingly, the prophecies land right on the money.
And with that, let’s end on this buzzed note of caffeine and occult.
Wishing you much good fortune and very many mugs of delicious coffee (if that’s your poison of choice) until we meet again. Believe it or not, there are still 3 more pending Drinking in Iran installments. Who knew there were so very many things to be said on the subject? And believe me, this has only been a perfunctory coverage, merely scratching the surface. Ah, that scratch feels good! ;)
(For now that is!)
I got to make and taste and nibble on a host of yummy Persian goodies whilst I whiled away the time in the city of Angels (Los Angeles) a couple of months ago around Norooz time … when the sweet business of making and buying and eating Persian shirini was at hustling and bustling and fever pitch best. Persian shirini like these delightful mouthfuls pictured above called tut (also spelled toot) – named after and shaped like mulberries – that I made with my very own dainty little hands.
My lovely friends and hosts, Laya joon and Mehdi, also procured a whole host of Persian goodies from baghlava to gottab to bamiyeh and goosh ‘e fil and zaban. Persian sweets that are respectively named after okra and elephant ears and tongue!
It tickled your faithful scribbler’s fancy to notice that quite a few Persian shirini are named for and molded to resemble such disparate, and frankly, weird things from tongue to mulberries to okra to elephant ears … to window panes and spring blossoms! So I thought it’d be fun to take a quick tour of these sweet Persian avatars together and mull it over with each other. Ideally over tea! Let’s get started! (more…)