Much has been said about the uniqueness of Persian food. From the various types of basmati rice based dishes, including polo adas, havij polo and shirin polo, to the various Persian stews, including the classics such as ghormeh sabzi, fesenjan and gheymeh, to the most famous Persian dish of them all, tadig, it is a cuisine filled with one-of-a-kind dishes. While the final products are indeed quite unique, the ingredients used to prepare these dishes are themselves even more unique. In fact, many of the ingredients used in the preparation of Persian food are not found in other ethnic cuisines. The uniqueness of these ingredients may further explain Persian food’s notoriety. Often times, these specialty ingredients can only be found in certain grocery stores, in particular Middle Eastern markets. As a result, it can be difficult to prepare Persian food in one’s home. Other explanations for the limited knowledge around Persian food can be found on our other blog post.
Given the limited familiarity with some of the ingredients found in Persian food, we thought it was time to do some explaining. Where do these ingredients come from? In what dishes can they be found? In what form are they best used in Persian cuisine? We’ve got all your answers here!
The Five Most Unique Ingredients used in Persian Cuisine
Number 1: Limoo Omani / Limu Omani (Dried Limes)
Whether it’s in gheymeh or in ghormeh sabzi, limoo or limu omani, or dried limes, is an ingredient that is used over and over again in Persian food. Limoo omani is instrumental in giving our ‘Shroom Baaz and Bean Baaz a bit of a citrusy hint. In our blog post on all things ghormeh sabzi related, we write up in full detail what makes this ingredient so incredible. As opposed to being eaten in full, limoo omani are cracked and placed in stews in the cooking process, slowly releasing a citrus flavor during the hours that these Persian stews are left to simmer on low heat. The ingredient originally comes from the Middle Eastern country of Oman, which is where it gets its name from.
Purchasing the ingredient usually required a trip to your local Middle Eastern grocery store in the past. If there wasn’t one nearby, you were out of luck. Fortunately, Sadaf’s Limo Omani is now available for purchase on Amazon. We highly recommend including this tremendously versatile ingredient during your next Persian food prep session. It’ll make your guests think you were trained by the best Persian culinary chefs out there!
Number 2: Ghooreh (Sour Grapes)
Unfortunately, none of the Persian stews which Baaz Bites offers has this unique ingredient. Ghooreh, or unripened sour grapes, can be found in khoresht-e bademjan, or an eggplant and tomato stew. Much like the limoo omani in ghormeh sabzi and gheymeh, ghooreh is used in khoresht-e bademjan to give the stew more of a citrusy flavor. Khoresht-e bademjan is a delicious Persian stew, and one that ranks up there in the top of Persian food’s top stews. However, unlike limoo omani, which are not intended to be eaten, ghooreh can be eaten, if you’re up for a bit of sour in your meal!
While ghooreh is usually only available fresh in the spring and summertime, it is available frozen year round. We highly recommend giving it a try and including it the new time you’re preparing khoresht-e bademjan. And don’t forget, if you’re ever in need of a Persian recipe, you can always reach out to us.
Number 3: Zereshk (Barberries)
Ah, yes. Zereshk. How could we forget zereshk. Zereshk, or barberries, have gained most of their fame in Persian cuisine through the delicious zereshk polo. Zereshk polo is a saffron-infused rice with barberries that it unique given its slightly sour taste (not a flavor characteristic commonly associated with Persian rice). While limoo omani, ghooreh and zereshk all have the attribute of provide acidity / hints of citrus to the dish in which they’re prevalent, they all do so in different forms, through different textures and through differing tastes.
Zereshk is sometimes mixed with sugar in order to dilute some of the acidity and instead give it a bit of a sweet flavor. In order to prepare the barberries which are found in zereshk polo, it is important to mix the barberries with saffron, oil and a hint of sugar. Zereshk polo is the perfect entree to serve during a dinner, and is often paired with chicken.
Number 4: Shanbalileh (Fenugreek)
Shanbalileh can be found predominantly in two of Persian food’s most iconic dishes: ghormeh sabzi and sabzi polo. In fact, it is one of the many different types of Middle Eastern herbs that can be found in our ghormeh sabzi Bean Baaz. Fenugreek is thought to be a helpful herb in issues ranging from indigestion to high blood pressure, further adding to the health benefits of these delicious Persian dishes. Fenugreek is also used in Indian and South Asian cooking. In terms of taste, the fenugreek leave is slightly bitter, but cooking it through removes much of the bitterness, and instead makes it a welcome addition to Persian food, not only thanks to its terrific aroma, but also beautiful color and health benefits.
Number 5: Albaloo (Sour Cherry)
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog posts, then you will have seen this ingredient before. It was listed as an ingredient in our Top Five Persian Beverages, and is used to make Sharbateh Albaloo, or Sour Cherry Cooler. Albaloo is also used to make Persian Food. If you couldn’t tell, Persian food loves to add some sourness, whether it’s through albaloo, zereshk, limoo omani, or ghooreh. Like zereshk, albaloo, in Persian food, is used to make a rice known as Albaloo Polo, or Sour Cherry Rice. The only ingredients used in this dish are basmati rice, albaloo (sour cherry), oil, salt, and sugar… quite the simple Persian recipe! Similar to the barberries zereshk polo, the albaloo in albaloo polo are mixed with sugar to make them a bit sweet. In fact, the sour cherries are left to rest in sugar for about an hour. The basmati rice is cooked separately, and once it is cooked through, it is mixed with the albaloo, making a delicious Persian entree classic.
Bonus: Beh (Quince)
While we were going to keep our list to just five, we couldn’t leave beh out. Quince is a golden yellow fruit whose resemblance is similar to both that of a pear and that of an apple. While quince is not an ingredient commonly found in main dishes, it contributes greatly in terms of texture, taste and aroma. Given that it is a hard fruit, it is often cooked for hours to get it into a softer form. It is then often used in jams or marmalades. In Persian cuisine, it is used in khoresht-e-beh, or quince stew.
As you can see, Persian food is an incredible cuisine thanks to its use of a diverse set of ingredients, many of which are not commonly found in other cuisines. Of the above ingredients, you can find shanbalileh, or fenugreek, in the Bean Baaz and limoo omani, or dried sour limes, in the ‘Shroom Baaz and Bean Baaz. Baaz Bites delivers Persian food straight to your door, providing the perfect opportunity for you to try out these Persian classics for yourself and to share them with your guests!