Yalda dinner, a meal traditionally eaten at the winter solstice each December, forms a significant part of gatherings held to celebrate “Shab-e Yalda” (the longest night of the year) in Iran. Let’s find more about various Yalda dishes in different parts of the country.
During the family festivities in celebration of Yalda in Iran, different provinces have several different recipes that may be influenced by popular culture or the palate of people.
One of the popular Yalda dishes in Iran’s northern province of Gilan is Awkonoos (water and common medlar), a traditional food with a unique recipe. In autumn, big vats are filled with the raw fruits of common medlar. The vat is then filled with water, a small amount of salt is added, and the containers are covered with lids before being stored in a corner away from high temperatures. The raw and hard common medlar ripens and becomes tasty and succulent after a while. Awkonoos is usually found until the next spring in nearly all houses of Gilan, so that the family members can enjoy the traditional food whenever they fancy a fresh, juicy, ripe common medlar fruit, eaten with salt and Persian hogweed.
Shiraz: Kalam Polo
Kalam Polo (cabbage and rice) is the traditional dish of Shiraz, an ancient city south of Iran. The main ingredients of the famous local cuisine are rice, kohlrabi, aromatic herbs, meatballs and pomegranate paste. The appetizing delicacy is known as the main dish of Yalda Night in Shiraz.
The popular Yalda dinner in Iran’s northwestern region of Azarbaijan is Khashil, a mixture of bran-rich wheat flour, wheat groats, water, milk, honey and butter.
Qazvin: Anar Polo
Anar Polo (pomegranate and rice) is a fancy food usually served in soirees, including the Yalda Night, in the city of Qazvin. The guests can enjoy a colorful dish made of rice, pomegranate arils, chicken, coriander, cinnamon, saffron, and chopped pistachio and almond nuts.
Zanjan: Khagine Khorma
Khagine Khorma, whose main ingredient is date palm, is the traditional and popular Yalda dinner in the city of Zanjan.
Recipe for Khagine Khorma:
Mash 400 grams of date fruits after removing their stones, and mix the flesh with cardamom, cinnamon, crumbled walnut, and cooking oil. In a separate dish, mix four eggs with a spoonful of vanilla, add 50 grams of yoghurt and a pinch of baking powder, and blend the mixture well. Add sifted flour to the mixture, spread it in a nonstick frying pan (preferably 25×30 cm) that has been slightly oiled in advance, and cook it over a medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
When the base, or Khagine, is ready, allow it to cool a little before spreading the date palm mixture onto the base with a spoon or spatula. Then roll the Khagine gently from one side, pour syrup on the dessert, and put it in the refrigerator to let it become fair before being served.
To make the syrup, allow the mixture of water and sugar to boil over the heat to produce a solution. Add steeped saffron and rose water to the syrup, and let it cool down before pouring it on the rolls.