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!
TUT (Persian Marzipan Mulberry)
Let’s start with tut! A Persian confection that is named for and shaped like a mulberry. I can very readily understand the need to pay homage to the pretty and delicious mulberry fruit by way of incarnating it in its candy form and making the Persian sweet known as tut. (Tut may also be spelled as “toot” but for reasons obvious to the American audience I tend to shy away from that spelling.) Tut aka Persian marzipan mulberry is my very favorite Persian sweet to nibble on and to make. It has very few yet top-drawer ingredients (rosewater, almond flour, confectioners sugar and pistachio stems), it looks and smells and tastes ah-may-zing, and if you have not yet made a batch of your own, I’d like to nudge you and say: Hey what are you waiting for? Go forth and make a batch! (Recipe for Persian Marzipan Mulberry.)
Goosh ‘e Fil (Elephant Ears)
The cute little bow-shaped sweets (pictured below, to the right) are known as goosh ‘e fil which literally means “elephant ears” and yup, you got it, these sweets are supposed to resemble the ear of an elephant! These store bought goosh ‘e fill were delicious in a softly chewy mildly syrupy way but homemade elephant-ear pastries are sometimes coated with confectioners sugar and cardamom powder and on the crunchy as opposed to a chewy, squishy side. In other news: that must be some dainty فیل to have such petite ears!
BAMIYEH (A Persian sweet named after okra)
The oblong cylindrical sweet featured in the pic above (to the right) is called bamiyeh which literally means okra! I do get why at some point it occurred to some ancient Persian to replicate a mulberry or a blossom as a candy but for the life of me I can’t understand the thought process that went into replicating okra into a sweet nibble. It doesn’t help my understanding that I happen to detest okra. I just can’t stomach it, that’s all. There’s a Persian okra stew (khoresh ‘e bamiyeh) that’s among my father’s favorite Persian stews, and it’s the one and only Persian food that I REFUSE to eat! (When I did my stint at that NGO in Kabul, the lovely Nasrin khanoom cooked lunch for us everyday and on the days she made her special okra dish, she was kind enough to make a little something else as substitute for yours truly because I tried, but could not eat that okra dish even when I was starving.) The bamiyeh pastry featured here was longer in shape than usual (I’m used to seeing bamiyeh half this size) but it did have that patented stretchy, chewy texture that I love. Paired with another Persian sweet named zulbia, the duo form a portmanteau of zulbiya va bamiyeh – a very popular, hot commodity purchase to get and give when breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
ZABAN – A Persian pastry shaped and named after tongue!
The Persian cookies in the goblet are called zaban because they are supposed to resemble the shape of a tongue. Zaban is a type of flaky, puff pastry that’s a bit on the dry side. It’s a bit bland on its own, but it is simply marvelous with a hot cup of chai. Aside: Do note the sabze (wheatgrass sprout) in this pic. This was in Laya’s kitchen for Norooz and I must immodestly boast that Laya divulged she drew inspiration from this Fig & Quince post to grow her sabzeh in this glass container . it looks good, doesn’t it?
Noon ‘e Panjareh (Window Cookie)
The Persian window cookie is a very special type of sweet, in that it looks different than most anything else you may have seen. Alas, I have never made it myself and do not have a photo of it to post, but I’m more than happy to direct you to this wonderful post – with beautiful photos – of this special Persian cookie that is named after and shaped like a window.
And last but not least:
Mojdeh ye bahar (Spring’s Good News)
These adorable and cute little puff cookies that are meant to resemble spring time flowers were featured earlier in the Traditional Persian Sweets for Norooz installment of my Greetings From Iran series. (This was Norooz 2014!) (NOTE TO SELF: make this cateogry) These first batch of cookies may be my most poetic gastronomic discovery yet as I valiantly eat my way through Iran. They are called mojde ‘ye bahar – or literally: “spring’s good news.” And they really are good news. Crunchy, fragrant, with just the perfect hint of sweetness. Sara tells me that to make these, her sisters in law store blanched almonds and hyacinth flowers together — starting in June and until just weeks before Norooz — so that the almonds absorb the fragrance of the hyacinths. They then use these almonds to make these pretty little crispy and sweet smelling puffs that are meant to resemble little blossoms. A truly wonderful treat. And let’s end our tour (of the Persian shirini and cookies that have an interesting name or shape) on this pretty and downright poetic note.
ps. Did I miss anything? I’m certain thoughtful research will yield other examples of Persian sweets or food that belong in the category of this post. (That is food made to resemble a real life thing or being.) Gentle reader: if you can think of any that I missed, please do let me know in the comments.
pps. I’d love it if you would pin any of these images that tickle your fancy to your Pinterest boards. Just click on an image and “pin it. (Here’s my Pinterest.)
Happy Ramadan to all observant Moslems!
(Here’s a beautiful poem about the holy month of Ramadan by none other than Jalaluddin Rumi.)
And till next time, that’s it folks.