One of the top reasons I have been wanting to visit Iran is to taste it’s rich, savory cuisine first hand. I am fortunate to live within 15 minutes from Westwood in Southern California. Also known as “Tehrangeles” where the largest Iranian population outside of Iran has resided and thrived for the past 40 years. There are the local favorite restaurants I go regularly with the favorite dishes I order every time without hesitation: Beef Koobideh, Ghormeh Sabzi, Most O’Moussir, Tahdig and Shirazi Salad. I couldn’t leave without taking at least one cooking class in Iran to learn their way of cooking Ghormeh Sabzi + other traditional dishes. And was fortunate to do so on my last day. In case you haven’t tasted this heavenly dish, it is the most popular stew in Iranian cuisine. It’s not a difficult recipe but it takes at least 3 hours.
Cooking Class in Iran with Reyhaneh
My tourguide had connected with an old friend: a bubbly, outgoing lady who I immediately clicked with named Reyhaneh Abdi. She is a native of Rasht in Gilan Province, North Iran who is also a tourguide that leads tours for Iranians to Russia, parts of Europe and even to Thailand. When she’s home, she hosts cooking classes in Rasht with a dozen main recipes that she offers. I was the first to request to learn how to cook Ghormeh Sabzi which she was surprised and delighted to teach.
Reyhaneh starts the Culinary Cooking Tour with a trip to the local outdoor market stalls in Rasht with her students. As they stroll through the bustling market in the early morning when most locals shop, she shares her experiences growing up in Rasht, the most progressive and liberal region of Iran. With it’s location near the Caspian Sea, Bandar-e Anzali (the near by port) is the second largest harbor in Iran for international trade (a gateway to Europe). Not only has it historically opened the people up to global exposure, but Rashti cuisine is also known to be one of the best.
Reyhaneh shares her passion of food and cooking while introducing local ingredients on her market tour. Then the preparation begins in the kitchen as she gives clear instructions step by step on how to prepare and cook the dishes. The cooking class can be as hands on as you wish or as a demonstration if you wish to take notes and watch instead. She typically holds the cooking class at her friend Hassan Mohit’s house in a village outside of Rasht named “Ebrahim Saraei”.
Ghormeh Sabzi Recipe
The literal translation: “Ghormeh” = Fried, “Sabzi” = Herbs
Ingredients (serves 6 people):
- 1 White or Yellow Onion (diced)
- 1 Cup of Kidney Beans or Black Eyed Beans (soaked in water overnight)
- 4 dried Omani Limes
- Meat: 1 pound of Lamb or Veal (for vegetarians, you can leave this out)
- 1 teaspoon Saffron (soaked in hot water for 5 minutes prior to using)
- 1 tbsp Turmeric
- Salt (at end)
Herbs (use of herbs vary depending on region in Iran and taste preference):
- 4 bunch Parsley
- 3 bunch Leeks
- 3 bunch Spinach
- 2 bunch Cilantro (200 grams)
- Fenugreek (100 grams)
- Optional: Chives and Dill (used more in South Iran)
How to Cook Ghormeh Sabzi
Preparing the Ingredients first (30 minutes – 1 hour preparation):
- Chop all the herbs loosely, then use a food processor until it’s finely chopped
- Chop onions
- Fry the herbs together for 20 minutes without oil
- When the moisture decreases, add about 3 tablespoon of oil
- 10 minutes later, as the herbs soak up the oil, add 1 tablespoon Turmeric
- Fry for another 15 minutes until the herbs turn to a brownish green
- In a seperate pot, fry chopped onions without oil for 10 minutes, then add 1 tbsp turmeric
- Pour in half a cup of oil, stir the meat in for 5 minutes
- Add Kidney Beans, stir for another 5 minutes
- Add the Herbs into the pot + 6 cups of water
- Bring to a low boil
- 1 hour later, add dried Omani Limes into the stew
- In the end, add some salt and pepper to taste
I recommend eating the Ghormeh Sabzi over Rice, best with Tahdig and Maast-o Moussir (recipes all included below).
Shirazi Salad Recipe
- Chop 4 Cucumbers, 3 Tomatoes, 1 white Onion
- Sprinkle Lime Juice and Salt over it
- Or add a little “Dalar“دلار – Minced Salty Green Mint/Cilantro paste
Mirza Ghasemi Recipe
This is one of the most popular vegetarian dishes in Gilan Province.
Invented 120 years ago by a man named Mirza Ghasemi Khan Gilani,
It is a common main course or appetizer made with Eggplants, Tomatoes, Garlic and Eggs.
- 3 large Eggplants (roasted over fire)
- 1 whole Garlic
- 3 Tomatoes (minced)
- 2 Eggs
- Fry garlic for 3 minutes, then add oil + 1 tbsp Turmeric
- 5 minutes later, add chopped/smashed Eggplant
- Add minced tomatos 5 minutes later, then salt + pepper
- Sautee for 20 minutes on medium high (until the juice of the tomato evaporates a good amount)
- Divide ingredients on to one side as you crack 2 eggs on the other side
- Scramble the eggs, then sautee altogether
Tahdig is a crispy rice that is basically fried with oil, scraped from the bottom of the pot,
while the rest of the rice is cooked above.
Most popular rice cooked in Iranian cuisine is Majlesi or Abkeshi Rice.
Soak 1 tablespoon of Saffron in hot water for at least 5 minutes.
- Soak Rice in Water for at least half hour
- Cook Rice to about 1/2 done
- Take out 1 cup of rice (drain out water)
- Pour 2 tbspn saffron water over it (which turns the color of the rice into yellow, giving it a fragrant Saffron smell)
- Add oil into a heated pot, then spread the Saffroned rice across the bottom
- Option to also add a flatbread (like Barbari) to the oiled pan
- Fill the rest of the pot with remaining rice
- Create a hole in the middle for steam to be let out
- Steam on low fire with lid on for 40 minutes or until rice is ready
- Once it’s ready, flip the pot upside down into a large pan with Tahdig (burnt rice) on top
For decoration: Add some Mint & Cilantro leaves over the rice.
Maast-o Moosir Recipe
It is common to serve Iranian food with a side of yogurt.
My favorite is Yogurt with Shallots.
Although Maast o Khiar (with cucumber) is a more refreshing, lighter option.
- Soak Shallots for a whole day
- Grate shallots into thick Yogurt and keep at least 2 days in a dark place
Iranish Dishes that Reyhaneh Teaches
- Kashke Bademjan
- Ash Reshteh
- Kal Josh
- Baghali Khorosh
- Baghali Polo
- Lobia Polo
- Mirza Ghasemi
- Fish (local catch)
- Sholezard (dessert)
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