Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Iran Food, Iranian Food and Cuisine

Iranian food (also referred to as Persian food) is some of the most delicious and fresh in its region. It is also quite healthy, using only small amounts of red meat (usually lamb or beef), emphasizing larger amounts of grains (especially rice), fruits, and vegetables. Although it is often lumped under the category of general "Middle Eastern" fare, the Iranian cuisine is able to retain its uniqueness in a variety of ways. One of these ways is preparing meals with contrasting flavors, such as a combination of sweet and sour or mild and spicy.

The country's cuisine is largely based on berenj (rice). It is relatively inexpensive and grown locally, making it an affordable and readily available staple in the everyday diet. A typical Iranian meal is often a heaping plate of chelo (CHEH-loh; plain, cooked rice) topped with vegetables, fish, or meat. It also provides a cool contrast to spicy meat toppings. The two national rice dishes are chelo and polo (POH-loh; rice cooked with several ingredients). There are seemingly endless varieties of dishes that can be prepared with rice in Iran.

Nân (bread), a round, flat bread that can either be baked or cooked over a bed of small stones, is the other staple food of Iranian cuisine. There are several varieties, including lavâsh , a very thin, brittle bread served for breakfast, and sangak (sahn-GAHK), a thicker, chewier variety that is usually marked by small "dimples" in the crust. Villages often make their own nân , while those who live in the city are frequently seen leaving bakeries with armfuls of freshly made loaves.

Meat, particularly chicken and lamb, is most commonly eaten as kebabs (KEE-bahbs), pieces of meat served on a skewer. Âsh (soups) and khoresh (stews) make popular entrees to most Iranian meals and often contain such meat. Abgoosht (up-GOOSHT) is a hearty soup made of mutton (sheep meat) and chickpeas. Soups are drunk directly from the bowl. Koftas (meatballs), vegetables (such as eggplant), fruits (such as quince, an apple-like fruit), and even yogurt (an Iranian mainstay) are often added to soups and stews.

Quinces, pears, grapes, dates, apricots, and Iranian melons flavored with rosewater are typically eaten for dessert. Halva (HAHL-wah, a sesame treat) and baklava (bahk-LAH-vah, crisp paper-like pastry layered with nuts and honey) are common throughout the Middle East. Iranians also love ice cream and puddings. Although sugared chây (tea) is the country's most treasured beverage and ghahvé (coffee) is highly popular, Iranians (particularly children) often enjoy a sweet drink after large meals. Palouden (PAO-loo-den), a rose- and lemon-flavored drink, dugh (sour milk or yogurt mixed with sparkling water) and fresh fruit juices can be made at home or bought in cafes and at street stalls.

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