Food Culture and Customs: For Iranians the food is not just a meal but rather a culture in which they use food to express their identity, community, values, status, power, artistry and creativity. That’s why Iranian immigrants bring the food with them wherever they go and cooking Persian food is a way of preserving their culture when they move to new places.
In Iran eating is done family style, with shared dishes and is the major social activity for friends and families. Iranians take their meals very seriously and have many customs to go along with it and put a lot of effort and energy in preparing their meals. There is often more food offered to you than you can eat. Part of Iranian hospitality is to shower guests with abundance. To show respect, Iranian guests finish their food on the plate and try a little from all the dishes served. It is considered very rude to leave food on your plate in an Iranian’s home.
Iranian food is some of the most delicious and fresh in its region and the world. It is also quite healthy, using only small amounts of red meat (usually lamb). Next to lamb in importance is kid (young goat), and very occasionally beef and chicken. Many varieties of local fish are eaten, but almost no seafood. Rice and bread are the staple foods of the Iranians which they eat with meat and vegetable dishes along with herbs and yogurt. Rice preparation is indeed a food art in Iran and of great contrast to the majority of countries who merely boil their rice. There are endless varieties of dishes that can be prepared with rice in Iran. Iranians also use a variety of breads such as Sangak, Barbari and Lavash.
It’s one of the ancient Persian foods dating back to Sassanid era. As part of a tradition, Fesenjan Stew was cooked in Nowruz ceremonies to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This stew is one of the traditional Persian dishes cooked throughout Iran, but it’s originally from Mazandaran province, central north of the country.
In hunting seasons, fall and winter, people in northern parts of Iran sometimes use the meat of hunted birds like duck or goose for this food. At other times, and also most commonly, chicken or turkey is used. People prefer Khoresht Fesenjan more during cold seasons.
Ingredients of Fesenjan Stew
§ 500 g chicken thigh or ground veal
§ 1 big onion, finely chopped
§ 400 g walnut
§ 1 tbsp. flour (to thicken the stew)
§ 1 cup pomegranate molasses (sour, sweet, or sour-sweet; to your taste)
§ 3 tbsp. sugar (optional)
§ Cooking oil
§ ½ tsp. turmeric powder
Directions to Cook Fesenjan Stew
1. Fry finely chopped onions with two tablespoons oil over medium heat until slightly golden.
2. Add turmeric powder and stir for just a few more minutes.
3. Add chicken and continue heating until the meat pieces get golden brown on all sides. Then set them aside.
4. Toast the flour in a pot over low heat until slightly brown. Remove it from heat and let it cool down.
5. Toast the walnuts in a pan for about 2 minutes. Then, let them cool down.
6. Get the toasted walnuts medium or finely chopped in a food processor.
7. Add about 3 cups cold water gradually to the toasted flour and stir simultaneously. In this way, you prevent forming lumps.
8. Add chopped toasted walnuts. Put the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, stir the mixture constantly and watch it not to boil over.
9. Add the prepared chicken or meat balls and stir a bit. Then, let the stew simmer gently for about 2 hours over low heat with the lid on. Stir approximately every 30 minutes to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
10. At the last 20 minutes, add pomegranate molasses, sugar, and salt (to the taste). Stir for a few minutes and then let it continue simmering.
11. Take a look at the stew. If it’s as thick as a spaghetti sauce, the meat is tender, and you can see a thin layer of oil floating on the top, your food is ready to serve.