If you ask most people what Persian food is, they’ll usually look at you with a blank stare. Unlike other ethnicities, which have done a great job of modernizing their cuisines to meet the desires of the mass market consumer, Persian food, for the most part, has been stuck in the past. Just imagine your latest experience in the prepared food section of a farmers market or food festival. You probably came across some amazing Pad Thai, or vegan Mexican nachos, or an out-of-this world Indian curry. But Iranian food? Out of sight. Why is that? What hasn’t Iranian food, despite its incredible tastes and flavors, gone mainstream?
Persian Food: A Hidden Gem
Reason #1: Concentrated Immigrant Pockets
Unlike other nationalities, whose immigrant waves into the United States led to widespread dispersion of that ethnicities’ people, Iranian migration into the United States post the 1979 revolution led to concentrated pockets of Persian populations throughout the United States. The majority of the immigrants situated themselves within Los Angeles and New York. Consequently, grocery stores serving the needs of the Persian population centers primarily opened up in these two hubs. Persian food is a cuisine that requires tremendous expertise on the part of the chef, as well as unique and very particular ingredients (dried sour limes, for example). Given the concentrated population centers of Iranian immigrants, Iranian food was unable to be widely dispersed. Additionally, given the lack of grocery stores selling Persian cuisine-specific items, non-Persians weren’t able to follow along with online recipes or cookbooks, as they often didn’t have all the necessary ingredients at their disposal.
Reason #2: The Secrecy of Persian Chefs
Persian chefs are notoriously famous for being secretive with their Persian recipes. As one Zagat piece put it:
If the food of Iran has remained somewhat of a mystery to diners in the U.S., that may be intentional. Unlike, say, the French, who’ve created a culture of dining out, the finest examples of Persian cooking are showcased privately, in the home. It also doesn’t help that Persian cooks are notoriously secretive. They’re the best hosts in the world and will feed you until you burst, but you’ll rarely get to see what goes on in the kitchen.
They really couldn’t have written it better. Whenever a Persian host invites people over for dinner, the incredible tastes and flavors of the dishes on the table usually leads the guest to ask, “Do you mind sharing the recipe to your ghormeh sabzi? That was like nothing I’ve ever had before.” Rather than list out the necessary ingredients and steps to replicating the dish, the Persian host, in purely Persian fashion, often responds saying, “Don’t worry about it. Anytime you want my ghormeh sabzi, just let me know and I will make it for you.” Persian recipes are like sacred jewels, handed down from one generation to the next. While you’ll undoubtedly be able to find Persian recipes online and in cookbooks, it’s tough to replicate the tastes of an authentic Persian dish whose recipe has been passed down from generation to generation.
Reason #3: Time Intensive Cuisine
Iranian food is one of the most time intensive cuisines. The average rice based dish takes approximately three hours to complete from start to finish whereas the average Iranian stew takes anywhere from five to six hours. Nowadays, in the era of meal prep and ready-to-go, pre-proportioned and shipped to your door meal packages, people just aren’t willing to spend those kinds of hours in the kitchen. Whereas other ethnicities’ cuisines are definitely time intensive as well, from Chinese dumplings to Indian curry, Persian food is in a field of its own.
Reason #4: Presentation has not been modernized
If you’ve craved Persian food (and trust me, we’ve all been there), your online search has probably began with “Persian food recipes” or “Persian restaurants near me.” As mentioned above, Persian food recipes often take hours and hours to prepare. As such, you go with the alternate option. If you’re lucky enough to live in a Persian population hotbed (usually either Los Angeles or New York), then you should have options to choose from. Otherwise, it may be a bit tough. Nonetheless, upon ordering your dish, you usually receive a plate full of basmati rice and an accompanying plate of kabob or stew, depending on what you’re in the mood for. In other words, Persian food is often served in a very traditional sit-down setting in a restaurant that feels as though it’s stuck in the past. Little has been done to modernize Persian food for the trendy, Instagram-focused consumer. Unlike sushi hand roll bars or Asian fusion restaurants, which cater to a restaurateur who’s excited to post an Instagram picture of each of their dishes, Persian food has stayed stuck in the past.
All of that is about to change
Baaz Bites is on a mission to change all this. We realized that every time an individual tried Persian food for the first time, they’d fall in love right away. And yet, it wasn’t a cuisine that was easily accessible to all, for the reasons mentioned above. It’s time that changed. Baaz Bites allows everyone to eat Persian food as though they have their very own Persian grandmother making sure they never go hungry. Whether it’s our crispy basmati rice cups or our out-of-this-world vegetarian Persian stews (or both!), check out all that Baaz Bites has to offer here.