Mast’o Khiar – Cucumber & Mint Yogurt

Some people are prickly lots and a trial to deal with.  In Farsi we have a saying for challenging beings like that: “bah yek man asal ham nemish’eh khord’esh” which translates to:  “you can’t eat ’em with even a bushel of honey.”  That’s unpalatable personality for you.  In pleasant contrast, some people are unassuming rays of sunshine who effortlessly brighten up anything and everything by the virtue of their mere presence.

Now if this type of person (the delightful one) was a Persian food, it’d be mast’o khiar: a cool, simple and healthy side dish that is particularly perfect during the dog days of summer and remains a welcome addition to the dinner table year-round as well even in the dead of winter; a dish that goes well with meat, rice, bread, and almost all Persian food (except let’s say fesenjoon!) and enhances whatever you serve it with.  I personally am a devotee of the Iranian custom of enjoying a side of yogurt with most dishes and this classic cucumber & mint yogurt concoction, fragrant and crunchy and still creamy, takes it to the next level.   So simple, so good.  You won’t need honey to force this honey down your throat.

There are minor variations on making mast’o khiar but for our bare-bones basic version you just need:  yogurt, dried mint, good firm cucumbers, and mad dicing skills.  That’s it. (Some people also like add a couple of cloves of minced garlic into the mix.  We heart garlic but … no, not with mast’o khiar.)  This foundational formula can be easily amped-up by adding fresh mint sprigs, roasted walnuts and raisins; and traditionally, particularly if it is to be served at a dinner party, one sprinkles mast’o khiar with a Jackson Pollock flourish of dried rose petals (pretty!) for enhanced sensory charm.

So simple.  So good.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups yogurt (Greek yogurt is best, alternatively strain ordinary yogurt over cheesecloth for an hour to thicken texture; also whole yogurt is preferable and strongly recommended for best results)
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, or 1/2 of a large English cucumber, diced 1/2″ (take seeds out)
  • 1 1/2 tea spoon dried mint ( 1 tea spoon for the mix and the 1/2 for the garnish)
  • Optional items to take it to the next level – highly recommended:  1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon seedless raisins, 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint (chopped) and 1/2 tablespoon dried rose petals
  • salt & pepper to taste

Direction

  1. Peel and dice cucumbers – 1/2″ sized cubes are ideal.   (Tip:  give an ice-water bath to your cucumbers to revive them if they are a bit on the melancholy side.)
  2. Pour yogurt in to a serving bowl and stir in:  1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dried mint, and the chopped fresh mint if you’re using that.  Mix well.
  3. When ready to serve, mix yogurt with diced cucumbers.  If using walnuts and raisins (and you really should) now is the time to mix them in as well. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of dried mint as a decorative garnish.  Finish with a flourish of dried rose petals (coarsely ground rubbing between your palms) sprinkled artfully for a touch of amplified sensory delight.  Serve!

Note:  This dish is best served immediately as it does not keep well.  The culprit is cucumber because it gets watery pretty quickly – thus diluting the yogurt mixture and spoiling its its texture and pizazz.   However, there’s a way around this for those willing to go the extra mile:  after dicing cucumbers sprinkle with a restrained touch of salt and put in colander and drain for half an hour.  Taking this step should allow you to keep it for at least a day or two.

Serving

Customarily, mast’o khiar is served as an appetizer or side dish; but it also can do double-duty as a marvelous and healthy dip, makes for a darn good snack, and can be a refreshing and light stand-alone repast (specially if you mix it in with the walnuts and raisins ) with some bread.

Make it and enjoy it and noosheh jaan!

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28 thoughts on “Mast’o Khiar – Cucumber & Mint Yogurt

      • No! I’m so bummed! We had a friend over for Dinner so I went with Lubia instead. And totally burned the potato tahdig. I alllllways burn it. I cook it on medium for 5-8 minutes then reduce it to med-low for like 40 minutes. I think maybe that’s too long?

      • You don’t have much luck with lubia polo, do you? 😉 Tah Digh is challenging! But fret not, we’re going to have a Persian Rice 101 post soon that will answer all!

      • I’ve got the lavash tah dig down. But the stupid potatoes are driving me bonkers… I’m wondering if some of the mayeh is getting to the bottom of the pan and burning the potatoes?

      • Ok, this calls for signaling batman. I mean, Mom! I’ll alert her and get her hopefully helpful feedback for you. No worries re the stupid potatoes! 😉

      • Ok, so Maman suggests the following may help: 1) next time you make the tah digh cook it for the first 10-15 minutes on mediums until you get plenty of steam, then put it on low for 30 minutes. 2) I’m sure you already know this but just in case, the potatoes must be raw. I can hear you saying “duh” as we speak, but you know, just in case, I thought bears mentioning. 3) yes, “mayeh” will cause it to burn, so let’s say when you sautee lobiya and its sauce make sure it thickens quite nicely and the liquid is released and absorbed before mixing it in with the rice; and last but not least, 4) the quality of the pot is a big factor, if it is thin, it is more likely to burn the tagh digh; and if that’s the case lowering the heat should help. Hope this helps! We’re gearing up to have our Rice 101 post soon, and I’d love to hear your tips re your lavash tah-digh. [ps sorry for delayed reaction … we’ve both been crazy busy recently.)

      • Thank you! haha I was laughing about the “raw” potato part but I’m sure somewhere someone has tried it. I gave it a go the other night with plain rice and that one came out fine. I cooked it for slightly less time too. So I’m thinking it may be the mayeh/over cooking combination. I’d love to help with the Rice post! Rice is EASILY the hardest part. Especially how to know when to stop boiling it. Too much = mushy, too little = crunchy

      • I love the way you put it: easily the hardest part. Ha ha and so true. I’ll have to quote this and some other parts. 🙂 I’ll be in touch re the rice post – thank you!

      • Totally! I’ll plan to reblog it 🙂 Let me know if you want to work on it together… or if you want some funny stories… I have this horrible habit of spilling some on the floor and my husband always steps on it and gets so mad he has rice in his socks… haha

      • Love the story – it made me el oh el. Ha ha. 🙂 Yes please share your funny stories – I’d love that. I’m a little bit of a control freak but let me think about working on the post together because I do like the idea. Maybe we can do a tahdigh segment together … let’s see how it goes! ps I don’t know what to call you. Should I call you “peace”? 😉

  1. Gorgeous! I’ve a jar of dried rose petals just to make this, are there other dishes you use them in? Looking forward to Persian Rice 101, and learning how to get a delicious crust on the bottom.

  2. That’s great! Dried rose petals are used in other dishes as garnish and also sometimes to add a subtle flavor and aroma – and actually there’s a far more elaborate version of this cucumber and mint yogurt soup called “abdoogh khiar” (which we’ll cover sometime down the road) that similarly uses dried rose petals as garnish – so yes do save some dried rose petals for future recipes! And how romantic that you had a jar of dried rose petals – I love that. (Re: Rice 101 – It’s coming down the pipeline eventually – but now thinking that I’m going to try to push it up.)

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  4. I really like your writing! And this looks delicious! What a great idea of the mint, rose petals and cucumbers; triple yummy!!!

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  8. Hi Azita! Love your images! Mast-o-Khiar is on Chef Zia’s menu for this Saturday at the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market – rose petals included! At the Persian Kitchen blog, I found this: “Mast-o-khiar is referred to both as a soup and dip version of this dish. While they are both made with yogurt and cucumbers, I personally use different ingredients when making each dish”. Would you say that your recipe is more common for the dip/side dish, but the ingredients you mention to take it to the next level? Would those ingredients make the Mast-o-Khiar a soup? I’m trying to practice pronouncing Mast-o-Khiar – think I have it! But what does mast mean? And what does khiar mean? Thanks so much!

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  11. Wow, marvelous weblog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made running a blog glance easy. The overall glance of your
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  12. Thank you for the lovely feedback Candy! Appreciate it greatly. I’ve been blogging for nearly 2 years by now. Whoa. time flies when you’re having fun! 😉

    Thank you for visiting, reading, and commenting.

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