Much time and attention has been dedicated to the main dishes in Persian cuisine, and rightfully so. The basmati rice that serves as the centerpiece of any traditional Persian meal is truly something exceptional. And add on that extra layer of crispy basmati rice, or tadig, and you’ve got something magical on your plate. Lets not forget the Persian stews, which are all incredibly unique in their own right. From fesenjan’s slow-cooked pomegranate molasses to ghormeh sabzi’s medley of Middle Eastern herbs to gheymeh’s rich tomato paste, Persian stews are the perfect pairing for a basmati rice-based cuisine. But little attention is paid to Persian cuisine’s incredible desserts, which are equally uniquely flavorful. In fact, many of the desserts that have come to characterize Persian food are also rice basmati rice based. Who would’ve thought! In this post, we’ll be looking at some of the most iconic Persian desserts, both rice based and without rice.
It’s amazing to think that many of these Persian dessert recipes are hundreds of years old. For example, faloodeh came into existence during the Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century. It’s recipe has since been slightly altered by other countries, which has in turn resulted in desserts such as falooda in India. Sholeh zard and halva are other Persian desserts that have been used to celebrate religious ceremonies for centuries. These Persian desserts are definitely unlike anything else available in other cuisines.
Number 1: Sholeh Zard
Sholeh zard is an incredibly unique dessert that translates to saffron rice pudding. It is both light in texture and fragrant in scent. The most important ingredients in sholeh zard are rice, saffron and rosewater. Sholeh zard uses Jasmine rice, which is simmered on medium heat until it arrives at a porridge-like texture. Saffron and rosewater are then mixed in.
Ground cinnamon is often used for decorative purposes on top of the sholeh zard. The brown color of the cinnamon contrasts beautifully with the bright yellow base of the sholeh zard. The cinnamon is usually used to spell out words, write out religious messages or make beautiful designs. The sholeh zard is also often topped with pistachio halves, which give the sholeh zard an additional green color. Some individuals even top their sholeh zard with rice petals for added design. If you thought regular rice pudding was amazing, just wait until you try sholeh zard.
Number 2: Saffron, rosewater and pistachio ice cream (bastani)
Yup - that’s right. Saffron and pistachio flavored ice cream! Why stick to the classics like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry when you can go with saffron and pistachio ice cream? If you couldn’t tell, saffron is an ingredient commonly used in Persian cuisine, not only in Persian food but also in Persian desserts. Iran is home to some of the best quality and most fragrant saffron in the entire world. Each saffron flower produces only a small amount of output. Additionally, each flower is picked by hand. This is what leads to saffron’s extremely high price. However, when it comes to saffron and pistachio ice cream, it is completely worth it. Saffron-flavored ice cream is truly out of this world. The pistachios give it an extra crunch and the perfect texture.
Saffron and pistachio Persian ice cream is also often served in between two wafers. The ice cream sandwiches were perfect for hot summer days in Iran. Thankfully, this was a dessert that came to the United States, and is now available at places such as Saffron & Rose in Los Angeles.
Number 3: Faloodeh
Faloodeh is less an ice cream but more so like a frozen sorbet. It's made using vermicelli-sized noodles made from starch, which are then frozen in a syrup containing sugar and rosewater. It is often served with lemon juice and a dash of cherry syrup for extra taste, a stellar combo of added sweetness and acidity. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing summertime dessert or a low-calorie alternative to ice cream, faloodeh is just the treat for you.
Number 4: Bamieh
Take a guess as to which two ingredients are also in this Persian dessert. That’s right… rosewater and saffron re-appear in bamieh, a Persian version of mini doughnuts. Bamieh is made using a yogurt and starch based dough, which is first fried before being dipped into a rosewater and saffron syrup. Some individuals drizzle the bamieh with honey for added sweetness.
Number 5: Halva
While halva is a dessert found in many Middle Eastern cultures, Persian halva is slightly different. To prepare it, wheat flour is slowly sauteed in oil or butter, and then rosewater, sugar and saffron are added. Almonds and pistachios are layered on top to add a beautiful design to the dessert. Halva is often served during religious ceremonies.
As you can see, Persian desserts are as diverse as Persian food. They use incredibly unique ingredients to make for one-of-a-kind products. While Baaz Bites does not currently offer desserts, we’ve got the perfect meal to preempt your Persian dessert with. What better way to start off a Persian culinary adventure for the night than with tadig-o-khoresht, or tadig and stew. Our combination of mini basmati rice tadig cups, topped with our vegetarian Persian stews, are the perfect way to start a meal before bringing in the Persian desserts. You can check out our crispy basmati rice tadig cups and vegetarian Persian stews here.