Typical restaurant meal in Tehran (which Moussavi won’t be eating–he’s under virtual house arrest) would include kebabs, chello rice, and grilled mild or hot peppers. photo: razzletravels.blogspot.com
While newsies sit on the edge of their seats watching riots erupt in Tehran, foodies naturally wonder what is being consumed besides overturned cars and piles of smoldering tires. And here’s the short answer: Persian is one of the world’s oldest documented cuisines, responsible for the invention of many dishes that we now take for granted. Persians invented the shish-kebab as an easy way to cook meat quickly, and provide finger-size morsels to eat as snacks with a glass of wine. (Though wine is frowned upon under the current Islamic republic, some of the earliest cultivation of grapes for wine production occurred in what is now Iran. Shiraz was originally a Persian grape, one still valued by vintners.)
Rice is the heart of the Persian menu, prepared with great care and often colored with saffron or turmeric. Typically, tinted grains of rice will be mixed with white grains for enhanced aesthetic effect. Rice is often parboiled, steamed, and then oiled with meat juices or other fats. Persian cuisine uses lots of herbs, such a quantity, in fact, that they often form the green basis of stews called khoresht, which, in addtion to meat or chicken, can also contain other vegetables like beans. Vegetables are also eaten as incredibly tart pickles called torshi. Fruit plays an important part in the cuisine, often cooked with chicken or meat–as in the national dish, fesenjan, which is chicken in a tart nut-pomegranate sauce.
Other dishes that originated in Persia include the stuffed vine leaves called dolmeh, and the fresh cheese known as panir. The food of Turkey was largely inspired by ancient Persian food, and the Ottoman Empire carried this modified version of Persian around the Mediterranean Rim, so that now you can see Persian food reflected in cusines as diverse as Greece, Tunisia, and Bulgaria.