Tas Kabab is a type of Persian dish that is a fusion of meat and various vegetables, layered and piled on top of each other, nestled in close proximity in a pot, and cooked ever so slowly. In this simmering manner, the various ingredients grow cozy and intimate. They bond! Each conveying its distinct quality to a neighboring companion but also picking up the essence of its in-the-same-pot comrades. The result: a dish with a fusion of flavor, aroma and texture far greater than the sum of its parts. What’s more, it’s a healthy and nutritious meal.
This dish really reminds me of New York. What I mean is that if New York had to be a Persian dish, I think tas kabab is what it’d be. And not just because the ingredients are crowded together in tight quarters, much like people are in the subway or a typical New York apartment building. And not just because this dish reaches skyscraping heights of dizzying flavor. Which boy oh boy, it does. It’s also because tas kabob is ultimately a dish that is all about layering, lauding, and harmonizing diversity; and in that sense, it mirrors the breathless diversity of origin, ethnicity and race of New Yorkers of all walks and standings who live, work and mingle together and in the process create a tapestry of energy that is far more interesting and vibrant than it’d ever be were this a homogenous city.
I think I love tas kabob nearly as much as I love New York: it’s the ultimate in comfort food with a core of unpretentious sophistication that can not be beat. The ingredients for it are pretty flexible and interchangeable, almost all types of vegetables would work out beautifully. My all time favorite though is when it’s made with quince, that deceptively brutish-looking fruit with an intoxicating aroma and delectable flesh. If quinces are out of reach, green apples can be substituted in a pinch. Traditionally, meat is the anchor igredient of any type of tas kabob, but for a vegetarian/vegan meal it is possible to skip it and one may substitute the meat with portobello mushroom instead without missing out on much of the goodness of this dish.
Tas Kabob is one of those dishes that’s all about the prep and assembly, which you can do in a cinch, and once you’re done with that, you can kick back and let chemistry take its slow course and do its delicious deed.
- 2 quinces, washed, cored and sliced (or substitute 2-3 green apples)
- 4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 1 pound flank steak, cut into several pieces (omit, or substitute with portobello mushrooms for a vegetarian version)
- 2 big onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced
- 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3-6 leaves of fresh sage, chopped
- juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon powder of dried Persian limes (or substitute a dried lime, punctured with a fork)
- 1″ cut of ginger, grated (optional)
- 1 sprig of rosemary (optional)
- salt, pepper, and olive oil
- You can substitute other vegetables for this dish, including: squash, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, etc.
- You could omit the lemon juice and lime powder and instead, when serving the dish, sprinkle it with cinnamon. If you choose to do so, you could also substitute turmeric with ground saffron for added oomph.
- Mix turmeric, lime powder, salt and pepper. (This is your mixed spice to sprinkle the layers. )
Add 3 tablespoons of water and 3 tablespoons of oil to a medium-sized pot. Construct a mixed layer of ingredients in this order: onions, meat, potato, quince, carrots, and tomato. Sprinkle each ingredient-layer with a bit of the mixed spice; and some of the chopped up sage. Repeat till you’ve used up everything.
- Mixed dissolved tomato paste with the lemon juice and sprinkle on top. Add the rosemary sprig.
- Cook on low heat, covered, for 2-3 hours. (Ideally, use a heat-diffuser for the stove.) Correct seasoning before serving.
Serve hot in a deep serving bowl. This dish pairs deliciously with yogurt and flat bread. This is a healthy, low-cal dish bursting with nutrition and a flavor that can’t be beat.
Make it, enjoy it, and noosheh jaan!