Iran is a vast country with a wide range of subcultures, tastes, and food diversity, so much so that sometimes the taste of some of these foods and their ingredients seem strange even to the Iranian people themselves.
Some ingredients have long been of high nutritional value, but nobody could afford to buy or eat them. This led Iranian women to invent new flavours to use raw materials like meat thriftily.
On the other hand, due to the wars and unrest that Iran has faced throughout history, Iranian people have become familiar with the culture, lifestyle, and even the culinary of other countries.
Following, you can get acquainted with some of these food ingredients that, despite their strangeness, are very popular in parts of Iran and even to foreign tourists.
Sholeh: This meal is prepared in Khorasan province, especially in Mashhad. This dish is known in Mashhad as “Sholeh Mashhadi” and is a form of soup. Its main ingredients are meat, legumes and spices. They garnish this dish with split peas. It is said that due to lack of time and food during the Mongol invasion of Iran, people were using any kind of available stuff to cook meals. They poured them into large boilers to cook. This food is usually not cooked at homes and is always prepared on special occasions (especially Muharram) by special chefs. The direction to cook Sholeh has been recorded in Iran’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Melon Seeds Eshkeneh: Due to the cultivation of nice melons, there is a food in Khorasan known as Melon Seeds Eshkeneh. Eshkeneh is a traditional Iranian soup originally from Khorasan province. People in this region use melon seeds to prepare the dish. This type of Eshkeneh is cooked with a mixture of melon seeds, onions, whey, turmeric, butter and salt. To cook it, the melon seeds should be heated lightly first. Then, they mash and boil it in three cups of water. Then, it is sifted. They sauté onions in butter and then add melon juice to it. At this time, the whey and a little salt is added. Some serve it along with fried eggplants.
Kalleh Pacheh & Rice: Kalleh Pacheh or sheep’s head and hooves is a traditional dish in Iran. In the southern city of Shiraz, they have a dish called “Pacheh Pilau”. To prepare it, they cook Kalleh Pacheh and serve rice next to it. They also sauté some plums, apricots and garlic in butter. Then Breckland thyme, Persian hogweed and black whey are mixed with a cup of Kalleh Pacheh extract. At this stage, they pour the rice in a pot and add some water. Some dried plums and apricots are spread on half of the Pilau, and some black whey essence is poured on it. Then they put Kalleh Pacheh on top of the pilau and brew it. Pacheh Pilau or Kalleh Pacheh Pilau is one of the local dishes of Fars province and Shiraz with high fat and calories. This meal is cooked in Sistan and Baluchistan Province as well.
Goush-e Fil & Doogh: Goush-e fil is an Iranian doughnut made by shaping dough into the shape of an elephant’s ear. Doogh is a cold savory yogurt-based beverage that is mixed with salt. This meal is common in Isfahan and many tourists prefer to try it. Goush-e fil is a sweet with a lot of sap. On the other hand, Doogh is a drink that has a salty taste. This combination was also served at the time of Shah Abbas, and it seems that Avicenna and Sheikh Baha’i also wrote about it. The sweet and salty taste of these two regulates blood pressure and acts as a sugar solution.
Whey & Beet Roots: “Kashk-e Laboo” or whey and beetroots is a local dish of Khansar in Isfahan province. It is made up of a combination of steamed beetroots, whey, mint, turmeric and oil. It is rich in calcium and is cooked and served in the fall and winter. Reducing blood pressure, cleaning the liver, preventing cancer, treating constipation, and strengthening muscles in cardiac patients are some of the properties of beetroots. It is also recommended to use beetroot to lose weight.
Fried Eggs with Date Sap: In some of Iran’s desert areas like Mesr Desert, fried eggs are prepared with dates or grapes sap. The method of cooking this meal varies from region to region, and some make it like Akuri. This food is made up of a mixture of oil, eggs and dates’ sap. Garpes sap Akuri is also prepared with flour, salt, egg, rose water and saffron.
Tripe Dolma: Tripe Dolma or stuffed tripe is common in Khorramabad, Lorestan Province. Local people call it “Soghedou”. They believe this meal strengthens the stomach. In its other form, it is made with rice, plum, dill and animal oil which is yellow.