Persian Cuisine, a Brief History
Central to the Persian cooking are the numerous rice dishes, some containing almonds, pistachios, glazed carrots or orange peels, and raisins; others with vegetables and spices; occasionally with meat. Most often perfected and finished by the use of specially prepared saffron from Iran and cooked slowly after boiling to have a hard crust at the bottom (tah dig). Other recipes include stews, dumplings, kebabs, and stuffed vegetables accompanied by different sauces. The sweetmeats and pastries are especially delicious. Many of the dishes are vegetarian, and the mixing of sweet and savory, such as grains stewed with fruit and spices produce unique meals. The result is a feast of flavors and textures as well as a visual delight. Most cooking is done from scratch and ready-made products and previously prepared ingredients such as frozen mixed herbs currently becoming popular with the younger generations are not acceptable to many.
Iranians use a variety of breads. The breads are mostly flat and all are baked in special ovens similar to clay ovens in Indian restaurants. In Iran the bread is bought fresh every day and sometimes for each meal, but in Europe and America most buy enough for several days and will freeze and toast them for meals. They are not the same quality as the breads in Iran and are baked in modern conventional ovens and some are similar to the Greek pita bread but not identical.
Many in Iran make fresh sherbets and many different kinds of herbal drinks at home. A small variety exists in the Iranian stores in North America, but again they are not the same quality as the homemade ones. Many Iranians drink all kinds of alcoholic beverages and do not follow the Islamic ban on alcohol. However, many practicing Muslims will not consume alcohol and other edibles prohibited by the Islamic codes such as pork, blood and some kinds of fish.
Iranians are great consumers of all kinds of meat except pork for those who follow the religious codes. The meat has to be slaughtered in a certain way according to religious prescription. The people who follow such practices purchase their meat from special halal Meat shops. Halal means permitted and is normally referred to shops selling meat slaughtered according to the Islamic prescribed codes. These shops are in every major city and easy to access. All Islamic on-line sites have detailed information on prohibited foods and beverages for public access. Many Iranians outside Iran do not observe such practices and have no problems buying regular meat.
Iranian food is varied and changes from area to area and there are many great cookbooks published in every language making the cuisine available internationally. The recipes mentioned below are only a few that are used for major ceremonies and rituals. Rice is a major ingredient and is cooked very differently from Indian or oriental rice. Iranians use Indian basmati rice and to get the best results the best basmati should be purchased since there are many different kinds. The ones produced in India are better than others and the local shop owners or Iranian friends should be able to recommend the best variety in your neighborhood.
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