Persian, Part 3

Welcome back to Ethnic Eating 101! Part 3 of our series on Persian food concentrates on the two ends of the dinner, appetizers and desserts

saladshirazi.jpg
fatemeh @ flickr.com CC BY-NC 2.0
Appetizers

Like any other Middle Eastern culture, Persians have a long tradition of dips and appetizers called mazza (the forerunner of the Arabic word meze). While you may see hummus and babaghannouj on the menu at Persian restaurants, these are borrowed from their Arabic-speaking neighbors to the west and southwest.

As soon as you see the items below, though, you know you are in a Persian restaurant. For some reason, most of the Persian dips have not been borrowed by the Levantine Arabs.

mustomusir.jpg
roboppy @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Must-o-musir
Must-o-khiar is the best tzatziki analogue you'll ever have, a mix of salted, shredded cucumbers, thick yoghurt, garlic and chopped mint, which brings a slightly sweet taste to the dish.

While must-o-khiar is the most commonly-ordered yoghurt dip, must-o-musir may be the best. Deceptively simple, it's thick yoghurt mixed with shallots. Next time you want onion dip for your potato chips, stop at a Persian market and buy some must-o-musir.

Not to be outdone, borani esfanaj is Persian spinach dip, spinach that has been sautéed with garlic, olive oil and salt, then mixed with thick yoghurt. Borani esfanaj is nearly always served on top of (or next to) flatbread.

kashkebademjan.jpg
cameronmaddux @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Kashk-e-bademjan is a rich, dairy cousin to babaghannouj, it starts with the same roast eggplant, but adds chopped mint, minced onion and kashk (the dairy whey that is similar to sour yoghurt) to reach a creamy consistency. It may be mixed with ground meat, in which case it will appear as haleem-e-bademjan on the menu.

Shirazi salad is a simple mixture of cubed tomatoes, onions and cucumbers in roughly equal proportion, dressed with good olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped herbs (usually parsley, sometimes mint).

Olovieh (sometimes olivieh) has nothing to do with olives; it is a moist salad of chicken, eggs, vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and lemon juice.

Torshi are pickles, but not just cucumbers; torshi may include turnips, eggplants, green tomatoes, green beans, anything that is pickled. ("Torshi" is Farsi for "sour things"). These are nearly always on the table at full Persian meals; you may see them served with a few olives.

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