Similarly to other eastern cultures, Persian cuisine is based on the idea of “hot & cold”, which is not to be confused with spicy or not spicy, rather it’s whether the food would create a sort of energy in your body or whether it would have a cooling effect.
The importance of rice and noodles in Persian food can be traced back to China and India. China often found itself as a trade partner with Iran along the Silk Road, meanwhile India especially Northern India was a dominion of the pre-Islamic Persian Empires.
The importance of rice began during the 16th century when rice was being prepared in the royal Safavid court. Persian cuisine is characterized by the use of lime and saffron, the blend of meats with fruits and nuts, and a unique way of cooking rice. It is said that the practice of preparing these dishes stemmed from the surrounding Central Asian cultures that had meshed into Persian society by the 16th century.
Persian cuisine is also known for its excessive use of rice, emphasis on the slow and low-heated styles of cooking, similarity in recipes, and mild flavour. Saffron, Curcuma and pepper always accompany Persian food but only in a small amount.
Rice (“Berènj”) is a basic element of Persian cuisine. Rice is usually steamed and can be seasoned with vegetables and fruit (in this case it is called “polò”). Or you can add some very elaborate sauces. While if it is in white accompanied by the “kabab” or with stews it is called “cielò”.
In addition to rice, an important part of Persian cuisine is characterized by vegetables that are often accompanied by fruit. Among the most used fruits, there are plums, pomegranates, quinces, apricots and raisins.
Fruit is very present in Persian cuisine, depending on the season you will find watermelons, melons, pomegranates, oranges, strawberries, limes, apples, peaches, and grapes.
Bread is a staple of the Persian diet. A 19th-century physician serving in the royal court remarked that bread served as an eating utensil, plate, napkin, and even baking sheet. The first signs of Westernized bread came from Russia to the Northern area of Iran, Gilan, where bread was used for sandwiches. In Iran, bread is almost always eaten with cheese which is always a variety of feta cheese. Bread, called in Persian “nan”, is an ingredient that will always accompany you in your meals.
The appetizers usually represent the beginning of a Persian dinner, you will be served yoghurt with garlic, olive sauce, cucumbers, green salad and carrots etc. These influences and culinary styles would go through the Persian filter and come out slightly more refined with an angle towards the Persian palette.
Persians love meat and it plays an important role in many of their major dishes.
The primary meat that is consumed in Iran is lamb. The beef was not popular in Iran or the Middle East traditionally. In fact, Persian royalty would look down upon the Europeans for having to eat such poor meat.
By the mid-20th century, the spread of beef became prevalent in Iran and spread across the country. Pork is not popular in Iran due to it not being allowed in Islam or Judaism.
Chicken in Iran was a delicacy, but with the influx of Western culture, the farming of chickens became more common and as a result, the eating of chickens grew in popularity.
Fish was not traditionally popular outside of the coastal areas of Iran other, but this has changed over time and it is now popular in Iran.
Persians will often include meat in stews rather than eating the meat by itself. These dishes are called khoresh.
The first modern evidence of khoresh comes from texts from the Safavid court, which highlights 13 different types of khoresh. That number has since increased over time with the arrival of new ingredients to Iran.