Most Popular Iranian dishesNovember 17, 2022
If you think of Iran, you probably imagine carpets and tea houses, not food. But in fact, Iranian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the region; a mixture of different cultures and traditions. Arabic, Turkic, and Persian influences have all shaped modern Iranian dishes. There are also similarities to Indian food; this is because centuries ago there was a big influx of traders from India into Iran. In fact, many historians believe that Zoroastrianism can be traced back to an ancient faith called Vediism that existed in India – which later spread to Iran. Furthermore, many words related to food are also common across the two languages. Independent farsi news outlets often post new modern takes on these staple dishes.
The Origins of Iranian Food
Iranian food is very old, dating back to the earliest civilizations in the Middle East. Most ancient civilizations had some form of agriculture, and discovered that certain crops were well-suited to their environment. For example, rice and corn grow well in hot, humid climates. And these ancient civilizations naturally developed the dishes that best suited their locally-grown crops. Iran is a large and diverse nation, so there are many different types of Iranian food. But all of these dishes are tied together by a few common themes. For example, most ancient Middle Eastern cuisines use legumes (such as lentils) and grains (such as rice) as staples. And many dishes also use yogurt, olive oil, and spices as flavorings.
The first types of Iranian food that most people think of are Persian dishes. This is because Persians have had a huge impact on Iranian culture – both historically and in the present day. And Persian food is a great example of the diverse types of Iranian dishes. There are many types of Persian food, including both meat and vegetarian dishes. And all of these dishes are often flavored with aromatic herbs like mint and parsley.
The Arabian Peninsula, which includes Saudi Arabia and Yemen, was the first place where the Islamic faith was practiced. With the rise of Islam, many Muslims migrated from Arabia to different parts of the world. And many of these migrants settled in Iran, bringing Arabian dishes with them. Similarly to Persian food, Arabian dishes use many aromatic herbs, legumes, and grains. But there are also a few important differences. For example, Arabian food often uses ghee – a type of butter that is often used in Indian cooking. And Arabian cuisine also uses a lot of dates, which are often used as a sweetener.
About 40% of the population of Iran is Kurdish. So Kurdish food has become very popular in Iran. And many of the dishes eaten in Kurdish homes have become common in all types of Iranian restaurants. One example is a dish called kolubah, which is a type of flatbread that can be served with a sweet or savory topping. Another popular Kurdish food is a thick stew made with a combination of chickpeas and sheepmeat.
Turkic people have a long history in the Iranian plateau. And their cuisine has become very popular in modern Iran. Turkic people are a mixture of Mongolian and Turkish tribes. And the Iranian Turkic cuisine is influenced by both of these cultures. Turkic food uses sour milk (which has a tangy taste) as a regular flavoring. Sour milk is made by adding a bacterium called lactic acid to milk. And the common dishes of Turkic cuisine often include yogurt and boiled rice as the main ingredients.
Many of the dishes that were brought to Iran by the various peoples who migrated there are vegetarian. This is because many religions, such as Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, forbid the consumption of meat. So, many immigrants simply created vegetarian versions of their native dishes. One example is a dish that uses okra as the main ingredient. Okra is a plant that produces edible seeds that are often used as a thickener in soups and stews. And another popular vegetarian dish is a yogurt soup flavored with mint and cucumber. This dish is served in many different cultures, but Iranian variations often include crumbled feta cheese as a topping.
Iranian food is a mixture of many different cultures, climates, and ingredients. And although the dishes have their roots in ancient civilizations, they have been continually updated and modified. This modern cuisine is a great example of the diversity of Iranian culture. And with so many different types of food coming from one country, it would be impossible to define Iranian cuisine with just a few examples. Instead, it is best to think of Iranian food as a smorgasbord of delicious and interesting dishes.