Fried fish fillets, Southern Iran style

If you are a fish lover, try this method of pan frying fish fillet. It is a very simple and savoury way particularly popular in Iranian southern cities with Halva Fish. You could use Flounder or any other type of fish fillet with white meat and tender yet firm texture. I sometimes use Haddok and cod, this time though I am using Sole.

Ingredients (serves 2) Read the rest of this entry »

Stuffed whole chicken breast, Banoo style

When I was a teenager, I used to accompany one or more of my family members in our trip to Bushehr, an Iranian southern city on the northern coast of Persian Gulf and the birthplace of my parents. The six-hour drive from my city Shiraz was always very exciting to me as the road wound its way through long and deep valleys and green mountains. My fondest memories of those trips, however, relate to a remarkably delicious on-the-route food that we used to have at a very special location called Banoo Teahouse.

Banoo which in Persian means “lady” belonged and was run by a middle aged woman and there was nothing ordinary about it. Banoo lived with her children in two adjacent rooms at the end of a gravel courtyard (no adult male on the site, except for a couple of roosters freely chasing after hens) Across from Banoo’s living quarters and closer to the road stood one single stone building with high wooden roof. That was her teahouse, or more precisely her diner – open 24/7 serving tea and hooka plus a spicy type of stuffed chicken for lunch and dinner (In traditional Persian cuisine, stuffed chicken consists of raisin and semi-dried prune, and is on sweetish side, but I will get to it soon enough!) Read the rest of this entry »

Bushehr, the city of fish & warmth

[Please click on the first image below to activate the slide show!]

I miss Bushehr, the seaport where in my parents were born and my family’s heritage is anchored. I miss its narrow rundown alleys, its hot humid climate, and the noisy air-conditioners waging war with the heat most of the year.

I miss my long walks along the shore where people camped and fished and worried and laughed, and where, came the evening,  the flaming sun on the horizon touched down and sank into the sea, with that unique almost audible “jzzz….”

I lovingly miss Bushehr’s fresh vegetable market tainted with the stink of fish and shrimp.

And above all, I miss the taste of those hard-earned, deadly spicy-hot foods, offered in the crowded sofreh with open hearts and smiling faces.

[Pictures taken by my sister, in 2012. Thank you Pari!]

Pumpkin Stew

Have you got lots of pumpkins sitting around? I have got a solution!  Add this delicious meal to the list of your Halloween season dishes! It is a unique Persian dish particular to the southern province of Bushehr, called khoresh-e kadoo savaaheli.

Ingredients (serving 3):

Read the rest of this entry »

Shrimp-mixed rice (maygoo polow)

What can I say? I have already posted three different dishes with shrimp (ghalyeh, shrimp-onion dish, and shrimp fettuccine). This is indicative of something, isn’t it!?

And count this mixed rice as two because I have included two different methods of preparing it thanks to my friend Koroush.

 Ingredients (for 2-3):

  • Defrosted or fresh half-cooked shrimp, 450 gr. ( I recommend “Marbel”).
  • Onion, 2 small to medium, thinly sliced.
  • Dried seedless raisin, rinsed, ½ cup.
  • Dried walnuts, rinsed and chopped, ½ cup. (If you have time, it is a good idea to soak walnuts, change the water a few times before using them for this or any other recipe)
  • Olive oil: 4 tbsp.
  • Turmeric, 1 tea spoon.
  • Saffron, ground, 1/2 teaspoon (soaked in 1 tbsp. of warm water for an hour).
  • Salt and pepper as needed.
  • And of course rice: 2 or 3 cups, depending how rich you want the mix to be. What you see in this picture is made with 2 cups of rice.

Method: remove the entire shelf and devein the shrimp. Wash and drain, then cut them all in half or smaller. In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil and fry onions over medium heat till translucent.  Add shrimp, turmeric, salt and pepper and fry for about five minutes over high heat. Once the shrimp is slightly golden, turn the heat back to medium and add walnuts, raisins and diluted saffron. Continue stirring and frying for another 1-2 minutes, but not longer. Set aside.

Prepare the rice in usual way (soaked in salted water, drained, boiled in lots of water, drained, and steamed cooked for at least one hour). Just before mounting the rice back into the pot (after you have poured some oil in the bottom of the pot, warmed it up,  and put sliced potatoes, flat bread or rice at the bottom to make your “tah dig”), mix the rice with the contents of your frying pan. As is always the case with any type of Iranian style plain or mixed rice, you cover the lead and turn the heat to minimum till you get enough steam accumulated inside the pot. That’s when you wrap the lid in a clean cloth and let it steam cook for at least an hour. You could also transfer rice and the frying pan’s contents into the pot in layers: one layer of drained, plain rice and one layer of shrimp mix, and repeat till the end.  If you choose to transfer them back to the pot in layers, you would need to mix the two more thoroughly once the dish is ready to be served.

Variation:  You can skip dried raisins, walnuts and saffron, and use potato, and dried lime powder instead. This latter version is the one I learned from my parents who were brought up in Iran’s Southern cities of Bushehr and Shiraz. This Method is not that different from the first one, but the taste certainly is: more seafood like, if you will. Here it is:


  • Shrimp, onion, turmeric, oil, salt and pepper the same as above.
  • Plus: Potatoes, 1 medium, peeled, rinsed, patted dry and cut in small cubes.
  • Dried lime powder, 1 tbsp.

Method:  In a frying pan, heat half your oil and fry cubed potatoes until slightly golden.  Transfer them into a bowl.  Use the same pan and heat the rest of your oil.  Add shrimp, turmeric and fry on high heat for a few minutes until shrimps change colour.  Stir constantly. Add fried potatoes, dried lime powder, salt and pepper and fry for 5-6 minutes on medium heat until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.   This is your shrimp mix. Follow the exact same rest of the instruction given above.


Stuffed whole fish

Fried stuffed whole fish is another ‘region-specific’ type of Persian cuisine which I relate to so strongly because my parents were originally from that region – Bushehr.

Even as a child I used to love this dish and I remember so vividly each time we had it for lunch I had to bother somebody sitting next to me to rid my portion of fish bones for me before I could attack my plate. I still prepare and cook stuffed fish my mom used to. Replacing the pretty, slender, round-bodied raashgoo and shurideh (two types of Persian Gulf fishes) with Sea bass does not seem to matter anymore; I still enjoy this dish enormously. Hope you do too.

Read the rest of this entry »

Red-lentil stew, vegetarian with tamarind

Daal adas is one of the rare meatless Iranian stew and is very popular in South and South-west Iran  (Bushehr, Hormozgan and khuzestan provinces), where food is generally more spicy than other parts of the country.

Like any given khoresh or dish, daal adas is prepared in different ways in various households. The way my Bushehri mom used to cook it, often when she was in hurry, is the one I came to like and learn.

Ingredients: (serving 4-5):

  • Red lintel, 2 cups.
  • Onion, 1 medium, thinly sliced.
  • Potato, 1 medium, skinned and cut in four pieces.
  • Garlic cloves (ideally green or fresh) 3-4 cloves, finely minced.
  • Tomato sauce 1/2 tbsp. (or one cup of V8).
  • Tamarind sauce, 3 tbsp (see note and picture below).
  • Turmeric, ½ tbs.
  • Powdered red pepper, 1/4 tbsp.
  • Salt, to the taste.
  • Cooking oil, 5 tbsp.
  • Water, 4 cups, or 3 cups if you are using V8

Note: I buy fresh tamarind from Middle Eastern stores; they taste wonderful (more sour than sweet) and are very rich. For this recipe, I use one long pod, skin and soak it in 2-3 tbsp of hot water. After 15 minutes, I just squeeze the pod and use the extracted juice for my daal stew.

Method: Wash the red lentils in cold water by raking with fingers and rinsing until the water runs clear. In a pot, add lentil, potatoes, water/V8, , and salt. Bring to boil and turn to medium heat and cook for half an hour or until the potatoes are soft. With the back of a spoon smash the potatoes against the pot and turn off the heat.

While your lentil is cooking prepare your piaz daagh: That is, in a frying pan sauté onions in hot oil until slightly golden. Stir frequently. Add garlic and sauté just long enough to release the scent. Be careful not to burn them or let them turn brownish because black spots would not look nice in the stew. Add turmeric and red pepper and mix well for two more minutes while still frying. Add fried onion and garlic, as well as the tomato’s paste (if you did not use V8) and tamarind sauce to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes until you get a homogeneous thick soup. Taste for adjustment. It is ready to be served, with plain rice, of course!


Ghalyeh, Shrimp

Ok… let’s start with one of the most specialized Iranian dishes, which is largely known and appreciated by  Iranians of southern cities, Bushehr, Bandarabas and Khuzestan provinces: Ghalyeh is a spicy, thick, dark green fish or shrimp stew (for lack of a better word), which is somehow distinguished from “stew” by southern people and referred to as, well, ghalyeh

Preparing and making of ghalyeh, be it with shrimp or with fish takes a good amount of time a attention; it involves steps which are not complicated but rather fun in fact because the ingredients used, especially the amount we use them, are not standard practices in mainstream Persian cuisine. You will see what I mean soon! So, if this is the first time you are making ghalyeh, allow a lot of preparation time. Also you will need to make several mixes; so try not to occupy yourself with one task while tending to the other

Ingredients (serves 8-10)

  • 1.50 kg fresh or frozen (and defrosted) medium size shrimp
  • 8 large bunch of fresh coriander, roughly equal to 1 kg, once cut and cleaned.
  • 1 bunch of fresh fenugreek or 2-3 tbsp. of dried fenugreek
  • 6 medium onions, chopped into small squares
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 10-11 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tbsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 4-5 raw Tamaraind fruit, peeled.


1. Remove the head, shell, tail and sand vein of the shrimp then wash in a large colander and sprinkle with two full tablespoons of salt. Shake well, letting the shrimp absorb the salt. You will need to rinse them briefly before adding them to your main pot. The trick is not to rinse all the salt off because this releases salt to the stock. Let sit for about 2 hours.

2. Soak the peeled tamarind fruits in lukewarm water at least 2 hours before.

3. Place the peeled garlic cloves in any hard and smooth type of mortar (made of iron or stone, for instance). Add turmeric and powdered chili pepper. Pound and grind the mix with the pestle until you get a dark yellow, pungent paste.

4. Cut off the long stems of coriander near the bottom of each bundle. Once you wash and dry the herb, chop them coarsely and put them aside. You will probably have a lot of trouble finding fresh fenugreek if you live in Montreal or another city in North America, so 2-3 tablespoon of dried fenugreek will work in a pinch, but you need to soak it in a small colander for a few minutes before adding it to the pot.

5. In a big pan, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat and add the onions so that they are submerged in the hot oil. The onions (and later the herbs) will soak up all the oil already in the pot, which gives an idea of how much oil goes into this dish. Turn the heat down and settle in to monitor the process. The goal is to get a homogenous and glittering golden piaz daagh: not too dark and burned, nor too pale and raw. Note that the onions continue to brown after you remove them from the heat. SO, either take the following step immediately, or remove from the heat before they reach the perfect golden color.

6. Once the onions are glittering golden, add chopped coriander and fenugreek and fry them some more. Add the herbs at the same time only if both are fresh; otherwise, add dry fenugreek near the end of the frying process. The herbs will absorb the oil almost immediately. Do not add any oil, but keep frying the herbs until they lose their fresh green hue.

7. Before the herbs get really dark, add the garlic-chili-turmeric paste and fry for a few more minutes. The garlic component can turn bitter by over frying, so keep it brief. Stir constantly to ensure a perfectly harmonious mix. Right away, a surge of savory fragrance evaporating from the fried paste might actually knock you down!

8. Extract the tamarind’s juice by mildly squeezing it through the colander, then add the briefly rinsed shrimp and one full glass of tamarind juice and enough warm water to just top the mix. Cover and turn the heat down.

The longer you simmer the richer your ghalyeh would taste especially when you are cooking it in a large quantity. But at any rate you should simmer for a minimum of two hours before tasting for adjustment. If you need more sourness, add more tamarind’s juice, but I doubt you would need more hot spice!  There are two options for thickening the stock if so required: a) peel one small potato, chop it into sugar-cube sized chunks and add it to the pot along with the shrimp and water, or b) twenty minutes before serving time, dissolve one teaspoon of flour into half a glass of the ghalyeh juice and add it back to the pot. A well-cooked ghalyeh is capable of swirling–down the hallway, out the window and off into neighborhood, making people’s mouths water, heads reel and bowels growl.

Shrimp ghalyeh is often served as lunch or dinner in small or large gatherings with plain white rice, cooked Iranian style of course, but it is sometimes indulged in with different types of Iranian flat breads, accompanied with fresh herbs (sabzi) and raw onion as well.