Last March, my college friend invited me to his grandmother’s house to celebrate Nowruz. I wasn’t really sure what Nowruz was when he first mentioned it. He later explained to me that Nowruz is the Persian new year, celebrated on the first day of spring. In English, Nowruz translates to “new day.” It was such an amazing celebration! It was a new years celebration like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life.
One of the first things that caught my eye as I walked into my friend’s grandmother’s house was a beautifully decorated table consisting of various objects. My friend mentioned that the table was called a haft-sin. In Farsi, sin is the equivalent to the letter “s” in English. Haft means seven. As such, the table included seven items that all start with the letter “s” in Farsi. These items included sabze (wheat, barley, or lentil sprouts), samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat germ), senjed (Persian olive), serke (vinegar), sib (apple), sir (garlic) and somaq (sumac). This haft-sin table also included a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, and goldfish.
Traditional Persian haft sin table
We then played a game, in which my friend’s grandfather handed everyone crisp dollar bills. Apparently, the practice is done to ensure that everyone has a prosperous year in the year ahead. I know that in Chinese culture, there is something similar done with red envelopes, or “hong bao,” so it was interesting to see similarities across cultures.
And finally, it was time for lunch! I had heard a lot about how delicious Persian food was, so I was very excited for the meal ahead, especially given that my friend’s grandmother had prepared it all! Nothing beats homemade classics! There were so many dishes to choose from that I didn’t even know where to get started! They all looked so beautifully prepared and delicious. I had my friend explain to me what was on the table, as I hadn’t seen many of the options before. The first item was called kuku sabzi. It was similar to an egg frittata, but contained a lot of different herbs and greens. There was also another dish called ash-e reshteh. It looked similar to a noodle soup, but it was loaded with different herbs and spices. And lastly, there was this dish called sabzi polo. It was accompanied with a white fish, or mahi. This one was my favorite. The basmati rice was so deliciously prepared, and it was mixed with different Middle Easterns herbs. It was like no other rice I’ve ever had before. I’ve had Chinese fried rice and Mexican rice in my days, but this was something special. Each grain of this long grain basmati rice was so perfectly fluffy and tasty. Their was even a crispy layer of rice on top of the dish which was apparently called tadig. It was incredible. There was a perfect crunch and crisp to each bite. The white fish complemented this rice perfectly to make for the perfect meal.
A traditional Iranian soup served on Nowruz
The second I finished the food on my plate, my friend’s grandmother had another spoonful of rice waiting to drop on my plate. While I was completely full, I couldn’t say no. This was Persian hospitality at its finest – constantly ensuring that guests are happy and full.
While a couple months have passed since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Persian food. It was such an incredible cuisine. Each distinct had its own unique flavors and history. I spent some time looking up Persian restaurants near me where I could try some other dishes in Persian cuisine. Unfortunately, none of them had that same homemade taste like the meals at my friend’s grandmother’s house. So I tried cooking some up myself. Little did I know how hard this would be. Not only was it difficult tracking down all the necessary ingredients, given all the unique ingredients that go into making a Persian dish, but it was super time intensive as well, as the average dish took more than three hours to prepare!
Leemoo omani, or dried limes, are one of the specialty ingredients used in Persian food
Fortunately, my friend was able to point me to this awesome brand call Baaz Bites. They’ve essentially modernized how Persian food is traditionally made, but stay true to all the classic tastes and flavors. He told me that I absolutely needed to try the signature product, their crispy basmati rice cup. I assumed it’d be as amazing as the tadig that I had had at his grandma’s house, but this tadig was truly something else. Each crispy basmati rice cup had the perfect texture, as it was perfectly crispy on the outside while also being soft and chewy on the inside.
The tadig that usually comes on top of rice is one thin layer of crispy rice. Baaz Bites’ version of tadig were crispy basmati rice cups that were completely crispy on the outside while also being soft and chewy on the inside
In my next order, I decided to also include one of the vegetarian Persian stews that is listed out on the website. I hadn’t had a chance to try one of the stews at my friend’s grandma’s house since I was so full, but he mentioned that if I were to go with one, ghormeh sabzi is the one to go with. I put in an order for the tadig cup and ghormeh sabzi pairing. It was even more delicious than the tadig cups on their own. The juice of the stew seeped into the crispy rice cups, making them absolutely incredible. This was a dish that I had tried preparing myself, but I’m so glad I went with the Baaz Bites’ vegetarian take on this classic.
While my girlfriend told me she was full, I kept preparing tadig cups topped with ghormeh sabzi for her. Seems like that Persian hospitality had rubbed off on me!
Traditional ghormeh sabzi preparation versus the Baaz Bites way