Persian food is quite the meat-centric cuisine. If one divides Persian food up into three different camps, each one has meat as a centerpiece of many of its dishes. First, kebabs make up a great deal of Persian cuisine. Whether it’s joojeh, koobideh or barg, lamb, cow, and chicken meat form the centerpiece of these dishes. Second, Persian stews are known for their incredible tastes and flavors. They bring together an incredible medley of different ingredients to create out-of-this-world flavors like no other. That being said, most of the traditional Persian stews, from gheymeh to ghormeh sabzi to fesenjan, are often meat-based, whether with veal, lamb or chicken meat. While the majority of Persian rice dishes don’t contain meat within the dish itself, there are a few that do. For example, estamboli polo, also known as lubia polo, is a tomato and green bean based Persian rice that also includes meatballs.
Baaz Bites is on a mission to introduce a modern take on traditional Persian food. With that being said, we realized that in order to truly do so, in order to deviate from the traditional and classic ways of preparing Persian food while still staying true to the authentic flavors of the cuisine, we’d have to determine how best to vegetarianize our favorite classics. We’d have to figure out how to replace the meat chunks that literally give gheymeh its name with an ingredient that still allows one to enjoy Persian food to the fullest. We’d have to determine how best to change up the meat chunks found in ghormeh sabzi and replace them with something that fit more in line with the general veggie-centric aspects of the stew, from the medley of Middle Eastern herbs to the red beans to the sun-dried lime. And lastly, we’d have to figure out what would allow fesenjan to maintain and showcase its full flavors without the inclusion of meat. In other words, we set out to completely transform these Persian food classics while still staying true and authentic to what Persian food is all about.
The Importance of Moving Towards a Vegetarian Diet
Whether it’s for ethical, environmental or health reasons, there is no reason not to consider switching over to a vegetarian diet.
First, on the ethical front. Every year in the United States and around the world, millions of animals are raised in inhumane conditions on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Gone are the days of green pastures and free roaming cows. These animals are simply raised to gain weight quickly, much faster than is normal and healthy, and are then sent to the slaughterhouse. Millions of cows and chickens go through this process every year. Wait… did we say millions. We meant billions. Precisely, 66 billion land animals are slaughtered every year for food. Unfortunately, these animals are no longer seen as individual, living beings, but instead simply as an ingredient to be used in the meat-centric consumer culture. Here at Baaz Bites, we thought it was time for a change, given all the different plant based alternatives readily available.
Factory farming and livestock raising is one of the leading contributing factors to climate change. In fact, 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions are driven by livestock rearing and processing.
First off, space needs to be created for these CAFOs to come into existence. As such, millions of acres of forest land is often cut down to make room for these operations. In fact, factory farming is the primary reason for the Amazon’s rate of accelerated deforestation. Secondly, a tremendous amount of resources goes into cattle feed, and intro growing a calf from the moment of birth to the moment of slaughter and to consumption. It takes 1,799 gallons of water to simply grow one pound of beef! As FoodTank explains, a tremendous amount of resources goes into animal production, resources that could instead have been going towards addressing malnourishment around the world. Lastly, cows naturally produce a great deal of methane, a heat-trapping gas that is 5x more powerful that carbon dioxide. The environmental impact of livestock production is truly significant, and it may be time we re-visited the negative footprint this food system contributes to our world.
Multiple studies and analyses, time and time again, have proven that a plant based diet is the way to go. In fact, longstanding research from The China Study suggests that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, inflammation and major illnesses. A plant based diet, full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and tubers, can have a significant impact on overall health. While making the jump to a plant based diet may not be an easy one at first, there are multiple resources that can help you make the transition to a healthier and better life. We now live in a day and age where plant based meat substitutes are gaining more and more popularity. Additionally, replacing meat with vegetables is another approach, and one that we’ve implemented with our line of vegetarian (and vegan!) Persian stews.
Meat Substitutes for Persian Food
As mentioned, Persian food is a meat-centric one. Given the three reasons we mentioned above, combined with our passion for modernizing these Persian classics, we decided to turn all these classic Persian stews into vegetarian friendly options. There are a couple routes in which one can do the same:
Mushrooms are a great meat substitute, as they are able to closely replicate meat’s chewy texture when sautéed and cooked fully through. Diced cremini mushrooms are a great meat substitute, especially when the meat comes in minced, diced form as it traditionally does in gheymeh. It’s important to cook these mushrooms thoroughly so that they achieve that chewy texture.
Ghormeh sabzi is already a Persian stew that is heavy on the beans, providing an excellent source of protein. In order to replace the meat usually present in ghormeh sabzi, one can either up the red bean count in the stew or increase the bean variety. However, one should be careful not to do so disproportionately at the cost of the other ingredients.
While this isn’t a common ingredient used when trying to vegetarianize Persian stews, it is one that could work well if executed properly. It requires sautéing the tofu so that it’s medium firm and medium soft. Tofu is probably best used as a meat substitute in ghormeh sabzi.
Baaz Bites’ vegetarian Persian stews
All of Baaz Bites’ traditional Persian stews are vegetarian. As the name denotes, our ‘Shroom Baaz replaced the meat chunks usually found in gheymeh and replaced it with diced, sautéed mushrooms. The final product is still delicious, and its full plant-based protein composition makes it an extremely healthy and attractive dinnertime option. Similarly, the Bean Baaz replaces meat with sautéed mushrooms as well, further accentuating the plant-based nature of this delicious Persian stew. The Pom Baaz is one that gets its protein from the grounded toasted walnuts present in the stew. Mixed with slow-cooked pomegranate molasses, butternut squash and Medjool dates, it’s the absolute perfect representation of what Persian food is all about.If you’ve been on the search for vegetarian Persian stews, you’ve finally come to the right place!