As a child, I was confused when someone of Persian descent claimed to be a vegetarian. It just didn’t make sense to me. Growing up, we survived on BBQed kebobs, from grilled bite-sized steak (barg), to ground meat (kobedeh), to saffron-marinated chicken (joojeh). What else would Persian people eat? So when Best Buy approached me to write a piece on vegan Persian dishes, I immediately said it was impossible. After all, the cuisine is pretty meat focused. But my Mama Pej knocked some sense into me by asking, “This entire time, you never noticed the vegetarian options at our parties?” I had to admit they existed. But could these dishes be veganized? They sure can.
Here are some Persian vegan recipes.
Persians know how to make rice. I might sound biased, but it’s true. It’s delicate, buttery, and good enough that you can stuff your face with it until your jeans are about to bust. It has happened to me. But yes, I said butter, which is a no-no on the vegan list. In many Persian restaurants, the rice is topped off with a chunk of butter and you get to watch it melt. However, Persian rice consists of basmati with a dash of saffron, and in my opinion, it is the spice that keeps me going back for more.
Though this recipe from Epicurious doesn’t include the real thing, you might enjoy putting vegan butter on top of the warm rice.
- Fill a large nonstick saucepan (at least 6 quarts) with 12 cups water; add oil and salt. Cover and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.
- Add the rice and continue cooking over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally.
- After 3-5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to scoop some grains from the water. Break one grain in half to make sure it is “al dente” (see above). Turn off the heat and pour rice into the colander to drain; set aside.
Make sure your rice gets tahdig! What’s that? You clearly have no Persian friends. It’s the crispy layer on the bottom of the pot. This is heaven. It’s the most sought-after part of any Persian meal. Let me give you some perspective. My mom is a true hostess and gives parties regularly. She always taught my brother and me to make sure everyone else got their food before we served ourselves. As a result, all the tahdig would be gone. We’d be pissed! But as we got older, we became wiser. Just before we’d serve the tahdig, we’d eat our own portion (and try to cover it up so our mom wouldn’t notice). It’s so good, I can’t even explain.
I also found a vegan Persian rice salad recipe from The Big Mans World that includes raisins and almonds for protein. Obviously, this is healthier than what I gorged on as a kid. However, it makes for a refreshing summertime meal.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled basmati rice and add the saffron, sea alt, turmeric and red pepper flakes and mix well.
Stir through the shredded carrots, golden raisins and smoked almonds and mix until fully incorporated.
Top with lemon juice and serve immediately.
Ghormeh sabzi is one of my favourite dishes. It’s an herb stew, which, though it may sound strange, is actually quite delicious. This goes well on top of white rice, but I’ll be honest, I can eat it on its own. Although it traditionally calls for steak, I always enjoy just the sautéed herbs and kidney beans. I love this recipe from VRG.
In a large pan, heat the oil and sauté the seitan, onions, scallions, leeks, parsley, and spices until heated. Place the seitan mixture into a pot, add a little water, and bring it to a boil. Add the spinach and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the beans and lemon juice and heat for another 10 minutes.
Salad Shirazi, is a Persian Salad from a city called Shiraz in Iran. I know I gave you a salad recipe with rice but this one is my personal favorite. I always order two servings of this salad at the restaurant. This salad is refreshing, healthy, and delicious. The ingredients are simple: cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions. But you must finely chop them. It’s not like a Greek Salad, where the vegetables are cut in bigger chunks. Chopping, is the most annoying part of preparing the salad but chances are you haven’t chopped it small enough. I struggle at this. Love this recipe from My Persian Kitchen to make a simple Salad Shirazi.
|Ingredients: 5 Persian cucumbers (or 2 English cucumbers, the idea is to use seedless cucumbers)
4 round tomatoes
1 medium red onion
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp dry mint
1 tbsp oil (optional)
salt & pepper
Dice all the vegetables together.
Add fresh lemon and olive oil.
Salt and pepper.
Mix well. Place in refrigerator for 20mins.
OXO Aluminum Stock Pot