Given Persian food’s limited familiarity in mainstream culture, individuals do not often have an idea of what the cuisine actually entails. Yes, basmati rice dishes, tahdig, and kabobs are Persian food items with which people may have some level of familiarity with. But when it comes to Persian stews, blank stares are in full view. That being despite the fact that some of Persian food’s most iconic dishes, from ghormeh sabzi to fesenjan to gheymeh, are all stews and represent some of the cuisine’s most delicious dishes. So we thought we’d spend some time discussing what these stews are, and how they’re different from the slightly similar, yet different, dishes that can be found in Moroccan and Indian cuisines, include tagine and curry, respectively.
Persian Stews: What are they all about?
Persian stews and basmati rice are the absolute perfect, killer combo. Don’t get us wrong. Plain white basmati rice and tahdig is definitely delicious on its own. But when paired with a Persian stew, the dish is elevated to a whole other level. On most Persian restaurant menus, you’ll usually see the stew paired with rice. Oftentimes, the most popular dish on a Persian restaurant’s menu is tahdig bah khoresht, or a thin layer of crispy basmati rice topped with stew.
In the Baaz Blog, we’ve already done quite the comprehensive deep dive on a variety of different Persian stews, including the most famous ones such as ghormeh sabzi, gheymeh, and fesenjan. In fact, we’ve also provided recommendations as to how to convert these normally meat-based stews to vegetarian masterpieces, by replacing the meat commonly found in the stews with either diced mushrooms, beans or even tofu. But beyond these three stews, there are so many other delicious Persian stews. For example, khoresht e bademjan is a delicious tomato paste and eggplant based stew. One of the most unique ingredients from Persian cuisine that can be found in this stew is ghooreh, or Persian sour grapes. These sour grapes give off a perfect level of acidity in the stew, giving the stew a bit of sourness that complements the tomato paste base absolutely perfectly. While we’ve discussed limoo omani before, or sun-dried limes, ghooreh are a completely different ingredient, as they are meant to be consumed whereas limoo omani are simply left in the stew to give off an earthy, citrusy taste during the slow-cook process.
Some other famous Persian stews include khoresht e karafs, a celery based stew whose color and flavor profile is slightly similar to that of ghormeh sabzi’s. While khoresht e karafs isn’t usually a stew that gets much love amongst those familiar with Persian cuisine, it is definitely one worth trying! Khoresht e beh is also another delicious stew, using quince as its base ingredient. Like fesenjan, beh is definitely on the sweeter side, but not as sweet as fesenjan, as it lacks the combination of Medjool dates, pomegranate molasses and pomegranate juice.
The world of Persian stews is an incredibly diverse one, and one that will introduce you to tremendously new flavors. Persian stews are characterized by their freshness, their traditionality, and their unique ability to win over people’s tastebuds after just one bite. While most Persian stews are meat-based, Baaz Bites’ trio of Persian stews are all vegetarian. Persian stews use a combination of unique herbs, vegetables and spices to make for truly incredible flavors. We’ve listed out our all time top five favorite Persian stews here. Do you agree with our list? Which ones are we missing? Let us know here!
Moroccan tagine is the dish that is most similar to Persian stews in Moroccan cuisine. The dish can either be spelled as tagine or as tajine. The Moroccan dish is named tagine thanks to the dish in which it is prepared, an eartherware pot. This dish dates back hundreds of years, and is known to have been enjoyed by the nomadic Bedouin people of the Arabian Peninsula. The Bedouins would add dried fruit such as plums, dates or apricots to their preparation of this dish in order to give it added flavor. To this day, tagine is still a tremendously popular dish in both North Africa and throughout the Middle East.
While Persian stews are commonly paired with a basmati rice dish, and poured on top of the rice and ate in tandem, tagine is a dish which is commonly eaten on its own. This is because Persian stews often have a more liquidy base, whereas tagine consists of more whole pieces of vegetables and dried fruits. However, tagines are often served alongside a piece of bread, which is dipped into the tagine.
Much like how Persian stews offer a tremendous amount of variety, given the number of stews that are available, from the classics such as ghormeh sabzi and fesenjan to the lesser known stews such as karafs and beh, Moroccan tagine also comes in many different varieties. There are both vegetarian and meat-based tagine dishes. One of the most famous meat-based tagine dishes is lamb, prunes and almonds. There is also another one with lamb, plum and eggs. On the vegetarian side, the most famous tagine is with olives and steamed vegetables. Spices that are commonly used in the preparation of tagine include turmeric, saffron, cumin and paprika.
The most fascinating aspect of tagine’s preparation is the fact that a very limited to no amount of water is needed to actually prepare it. This is because of the dome-shaped structure of the tagine bowl. The dome-shaped lid of the tagine bowl captures the steam and returns the condensed liquid back down to the pot. As a result, during the early days of tagine’s preparation, in which access to clean water was not readily available, the bowl itself would be the perfect tool to prepare the dish! As a result, the dish engrained itself in Moroccan and North African culinary culture, and is still consumed to this day!
Of the trifecta of Persian stews, Moroccan tagines and Indian curries, the most famous of the three, and that which has likely gained the most mainstream popularity thus far, are Indian curries. Like Persian stews, but unlike Moroccan tagines, Indian curries are often served alongside a plate of rice. However, while Persian cuisine normally pairs its stews with basmati rice, Jasmine rice is more commonly used in Indian cuisine. Of the three cuisines, Indian cuisine is often the one that uses the most spices. While Moroccan tagines and Persian stews are usually never spicy, Indian curries can turn out to be quite spicy given the mix of spices used in the preparation of the dish. Additionally, unlike Persian stews and Moroccan tagines, which are relatively standardized in their preparation across regions, Indian curries vary quite dramatically from region to region, both in terms of their preparation and their taste. For example, some regions use coconut milk whereas others do not.
The variety of curries is truly incredible. Whether it’s vindaloo, sambar, biryani or madras, just to name a few, there is a limitless world of different possibilities. Fortunately, many different types of Indian curries have made it to the mainstream market, allowing you to easily enjoy this diverse cuisine in its entirety.
Baaz BitesWhile Baaz Bites has not yet made its way into Moroccan and Indian cuisine, you can find our trio of vegetarian Persian stews here. Whether you’re looking for ghormeh sabzi, gheymeh or fesenjan, Baaz Bites has got it all for you. And even better, you can pair any of these vegetarian Persian stews with our crispy basmati rice tahdig cups.