I would consider myself a foodie. I love exploring new cuisines. Whether it’s the delicious bibimbap of Korean food or the class quesadillas and tacos of Mexican food, I make every effort to seek out the best ethnic cuisines in my area. Given the foodie that I am, my Persian friends from New York have been encouraging me to try Persian food for the longest time. They mentioned that it’s one of the most flavorful and delicious ethnic cuisines out there. Most dishes have some sort of basmati rice base and are usually paired with distinct, flavorful stews. I did a quick search of Persian restaurants in the area and was pleasantly surprised to see how many options there were in the Westwood area of Los Angeles. In fact, some people even refer to the area as Little Tehran, given the prevalence of Persian restaurants in the neighborhood.
I finally decided to make the trip out, and I could not be happier with the decision. My friends told me that I needed to order this dish called tadig, which was apparently a plate of crispy basmati rice. I had the option of topping the tadig with either one or two Persian stews. My friends recommended that I go with ghormeh sabzi and gheymeh, two traditional Persian stews. All I can say is WOW. I was completely blown away. The texture of the crispy rice was out of this world. Each bite came with such an incredible crunch that had me wanting more. It was like nothing I’ve ever had before. And the stews on top! The ghormeh sabzi was this awesome blend of Middle Eastern herbs, with a bit of a citrusy taste to it, because of this traditional Persian ingredient known as leemoo omani, or dried limes. The gheymeh was also pretty amazing and was a bit more savory. A rich tomato paste served as the base of the stew, and it was mixed with split peas.
I did some research online to see how I could start making Persian food at home, for as much of a foodie as I am, the cost eventually starts adding up. And I’ve always found a certain of relaxation in spending time in the kitchen cooking something up. I was a bit surprised to see how extensive of a process making Persian food is, however. The average stew, between prep time and cook time, takes four to five hours. And this doesn’t even include the trip out to speciality grocery stores given that the ingredients needed to make the Persian stews. And I couldn’t believe that I’d have to go through the process of making an entire pot of basmati rice just to get a single thin layer of that incredible tadig to form at the bottom of the pot.
Fortunately, with some research online, I was able to find a company that sends authentic, homemade Persian food straight to my door. Their signature product are these really innovative crispy basmati rice cups. They essentially took tadig but converted it to cup form. I was even more impressed with this version of tadig than the one I had had at the Persian restaurant just a couple weeks prior. They also had a vegetarian version of ghormeh sabzi, the Persian stew I had fallen in love with when I first tried it at the Persian restaurant. I’ve actually been trying to cut out my meat consumption for quite some time now, so this was the perfect option. They use diced mushrooms in their version of ghormeh sabzi as opposed to the meat chunks that are usually present in that Persian stew. Their ghormeh sabzi has the perfect balance of Middle Eastern herbs, red beans, diced mushrooms, and hints of sun-dried lime. No wonder ghormeh sabzi has often been referred to as Persian food’s emblematic dish. The crispy basmati rice cup and ghormeh sabzi combo that this company sent me was so delicious that I revisited their website to see what else they had to offer.
While doing some more research on other products, I came across this dish called fesenjan. I hadn’t heard of it before, as my Persian friends hadn’t mentioned it to me. However, I looked at the ingredient list, which seemed to include a slow-cooked pomegranate molasses, toasted walnuts, Medjool dates and butternut squash. It sounded like a very interesting mix, and I’ve always been a pomegranate fan, so I decided to give fesenjan a shot. I heated up the crispy basmati rice cups in my oven and heated up the stew on my stovetop (this one was vegetarian too!). After just seventeen minutes, I topped each of my crispy basmati rice cups with the fesenjan and had myself an incredible dish. My girlfriend even tried them and was blown away. The crispy rice complemented the stew perfectly. The stew was also this perfect mix of sweet and tart. The flavors just worked together so well.
Now that I have tried all three of the most famous Persian stews, including ghormeh sabzi, fesenjan, and gheymeh, it’s really tough for me to choose a favorite. They’re each so distinct and unique in their own right. However, if I had to pick just one, I think ghormeh sabzi would be my choice. The hint of citrus flavor in that Persian stew are just too good! My girlfriend loved fesenjan. She thought the pomegranate taste was out of this world.
I’m lucky to have Persian friends who encouraged me to try out Persian food. It’s a cuisine that often goes under the radar, just because it’s not as readily available as other cuisines. However, having tried it three times now, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. And fortunately, I found an option that doesn’t force me to go out to a restaurant every time I want to try out this amazing cuisine.