Kubideh Kitchen

Kubideh Kitchen is an Iranian take-out restaurant that serves kubideh in freshly baked barbari bread with onion, mint, and basil. Developed in collaboration with members of the Pittsburgh Iranian community, the sandwich is packaged in a custom-designed wrapper that includes interviews with Iranians both in Pittsburgh and Iran on subjects ranging from Iranian food and poetry to the current political turmoil.

Link.

Persian Food in the New York Times

Mehdi-Ghasemi-House-of-Kabob-NYT

A couple of months ago, right around Norooz, I played tour guide to a food writer, Sara Dickerman, who was working on a story about Tehrangeles’s culinary offerings for the New York Times. We went to House of Kabob and Q Market in Reseda, and Mashti Malone in Hollywood. It was fun and delicious, and she was really cool and open and excited about Persian food and culture. She asked great questions and wanted to try everything.

The story was published today (“Persian Cooking Finds a Home in Los Angeles“). Sara’s a fantastic writer and she did such a great job of capturing the food and people of Tehrangeles. I love that Persian food is finally getting the press and props it deserves, and I love that Sara wrote about the Valley and included House of Kabob, my favorite Persian restaurant anywhere, and I love the above photo of its owner, Agha Mehdi, who has the best mustache in the world. 

Anyway, I think this is so exciting. Please also check out the cute slideshow by Stephanie Diani that will warm your heart.

Persian Cooking Videos

A few weeks ago I spent some time with a reporter writing about Persian food in LA for a really big national publication. And lately I’ve been noticing Persian food popping up more in blogs and media. Is our awesome cuisine finally going mainstream?

Either way, I am pleased to share these really lovely and to-the-point “Persian Food Tutorials” from Cyrus Dowlatshahi’s Fatty Productions. Cyrus has done a great job condensing Persian recipes into how-to videos that are under two minutes long. And he’s working on more of these, which I’m really looking forward to seeing!

Here’s one on how to prepare jujeh kabob (i.e., chicken kabob):

And one on how to prepare mast-o-khiar (cucumber yogurt):

You may remember Cyrus from our post on the film Kabob Guy. Check out more of his work at the Fatty Productions Vimeo page.

Aab Doogh Khiyaar Recipe

Aab Doogh Khiyaar - by Yogurtsoda

Aab Doogh Khiyaar - by Yogurtsoda

Mariam Hosseini, aka Yogurtsoda, just posted an amazing recipe for a cold Persian soup called “Aab Doogh Khiyaar.” I didn’t even know it existed, so I can’t wait to try it myself. Mariam writes:

Aab doogh khiyaar is for Iranians what gazpacho is to Spaniards or what somen is to the Japanese. It’s a comfort food for me, evocative of long sweltering days where my family couldn’t be bothered to turn on the oven.

Cyrus Dowlatshahi’s “Kabob Guy”

 

Enjoy this sweet, heartfelt, thorough, and delicious family docudramareality film by aspiring auteur Cyrus Dowlatshahi. It’s all about Majid, a kababi, the guy who shows up to your Perzhian party to make kabob, capturing him in his element at a real mehmooni. Highlights from the video include: baby’s first taste of kashk-e bademjoon (at 2:30), an authentic Persian dad’s description of noon-e zir-e kabab (at 4:27), and any shot of the kababi. Noosh-e-jaan!

7 Questions for Yogurtsoda

mariam-at-bouchon
Yogurtsoda is the new online home of Iranian-American, Bay Area-based, Pars Arts contributor Mariam Hosseini’s excellent food and travel writing.

1. You’ve blogged regularly for quite a while on Distant Voices. Why did you decide to spin out food/travel posts to Yogurtsoda?
I’d been planning on blogging on my own domain for years, but had never really gotten around to it. www.distant-voices.com is actually my sister’s domain and she had hosted (re)definition for me there since the beginning.

Yogurtsoda is still in transition – not everything is properly formatted and archived yet. But hey, I love doogh, and www.yogurtsoda.com is a reflection of two things close to my heart: food and Iranian culture. For better or worse, I’m really shekamoo.

2. How did you become interested in cooking?
When I was five years old, my favorite television show was Yan Can Cook. I used to watch him and imitate what he did by “playing chef.” I had my own pretend live studio audience and everything in my head, embarassingly enough. He’s the original celebrity chef in my eyes.

I also grew up in a household where home cooking and healthy food was valued, so being exposed to that from a young age led to my curiosity in the kitchen. I still remember the first meal I cooked for my family as a kid: A huge pot of instant ramen noodles, refried beans, and some boiled peach atrocity of a “beverage.” Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since then.

3. You work quite a bit at your day job in the non-profit world; how do you make the time to cook?
I’ve definitely had to scale down in the past couple of years. I’m too busy to crank out my homemade pasta maker or to tackle multi-course meals, so I stick to simpler recipes that maintain the integrity of the ingredients but still work with a busy schedule. It also helps if I prep as much as I can ahead of time. My kitchen is pretty small too, so I’m limited not only by time but also space.

4. What’s the best Bay Area Persian food? What’s the best Persian restaurant you’ve been to anywhere?
My parents’ kitchen. I don’t know what it is, but I much prefer Iranian homecooking to the restaurant variety. That being said, Shalizaar in Belmont is probably the best Persian food in the Bay Area, but I haven’t tried them all to be able to give a fair assessment. Any of the Moby Dick restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area are the best I’ve had in the U.S – their kabab koobideh is really good.

5. Which food-related blogs do you read?
I read Serious Eats; it’s such a great resource and an entertaining read. I also love The Girl Who Ate Everything, Writing with My Mouth Full and Michael Ruhlman’s blog.

6. What do you always have on hand in the kitchen?
Equipment: A chef’s knife, a wok and a couple of thick-bottomed pans.

Ingredients: Garlic, olive oil, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, Parmesan cheese, vinegar (balsamic and rice wine), eggs, dried mushrooms, chicken stock, rice and at least one kind of pasta.

7. Which recipe on Yogurtsoda is a good one for readers with beginner cooking skills to try?
Most of the recipes I post are pretty easy, but some of my favorites for beginner cooks are Lentil Salad with Browned Sausages, Hearts of Palm Salad with Shrimp and Avocado, and Pumpkin Spiced Muffins.

25 Dec 2008, 6:38am
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Zoulbia Recipe

Disjointed spoon
Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya

It’s Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa! Time for lots of sweets, and over on All Kinds of Yum, Iranian American food blogger Tannaz has posted her recipe for zoulbia, which looks delicious and includes this clever trick:

You can buy plastic squeeze bottles from restaurant supply stores, or even from stores like Target, but in a pinch, an empty plastic shampoo, dish soap, or ketchup bottle with a narrow opening, thoroughly cleaned, works fine.

Maykadeh Restaurant, San Francisco

Pars Arts is on a mini-hiatus as I scour San Francisco for the best neighborhood to move to… and last night took me to dinner at Maykadeh restaurant in North Beach.

I heard from one source that this is a fantastic restaurant, and another assures me it’s not the best Persian food in the Bay Area. I hope the second source is right, because the kabob koobideh was slightly mushy, the shishlik lacked seasoning, the kashke bademjan was lacking in acidity, and the little faloodeh noodles didn’t taste quite right.

I will say that their Persian Martini (with pomegranate juice) was nice and strong, and tasted great. Their service was also really great, the photos on the wall are beautiful, and the sink in their bathroom is really cool. Unfortunately, none of those things (besides the martini) are edible.

So if you’re in the San Francisco area, pray tell – where do you go for really good Persian food?

Kaleh Pacheh and Bebin.tv

Bebin.tv has revamped their site since the last time I checked out the site, and it looks great! It features more content, including a blog, embeddable videos, RSS feeds and it works on Macs. Nice work, Bebin! I love this cooking segment on Kaleh Pacheh:

Adventures in Online Iranian Food Shopping


(photo: Kalamala.com)

by Mariam Hosseini

Faloodeh, albaloo, zoolbiya, toot, gaz, zereshk (pictured) – are you drooling yet? You should be. Every Iranian has their favorite ingredient, that ubiquitous flavor that brings memories rushing back. Unless you’re actually in Iran, you may not be able to get your hands on zoghal akhteh or chaghaleh badoom anytime, but for the rest of us there is online shopping.

When I started looking around online to see what I could find in terms of Iranian grocery shopping, I was a little taken aback. For all the web savvy Iranians boast, there are only two veritable, complete sources for those shopping outside Iran: Sadaf and Kalamala (which is where the photo of zereshk above comes from). Sadaf itself is a food brand, so any shopping you do on their site is limited to their trademark. While Kalamala carries other brands too, the majority of their inventory is still Sadaf. Looks like someone has the market cornered.

Both have clear, easy to navigate layouts, making for easy shopping. Kalamala wins on the design front but neither site requires genius to add something to your cart. The downside to your shopping experience is that for both sites, you must create an account to shop. Although that isn’t too surprising, I was hoping not to add to my ever-increasing list of registration usernames and passwords.

Sadaf and Kalamala each have a specials section, meaning you can score your million-gallon tin of Iranian pickles for only $5.99 at Kalamala. Good luck getting it in the fridge. Sadaf’s sale section is larger, offering, among other things, a jar of kashk, a box of gaz, and a pound of tea, all for under $6 each.

I can’t say I recommend one site more than the other. Sadaf easily has a larger variety of foodstuffs (they even carry golpar!), but Kalamala doesn’t limit you to one brand. Both carry the essentials – torshi, sohaan, pomegranate molasses, dried limes, dried mint, sumac, and the like. The downside to Sadaf is that their sweets selection is not as varied as Kalamala’s. And both sources have a nonexistent bread selection. If you’re craving naan barbari or sangak, good luck. Neither carries fresh dairy products like feta or maast-o mooseer, and you can forget about fresh items like gojeh sabz, fresh pistachios, or those, ahem, special cuts of meat that hold a revered place in Iranian cuisine. Save those cravings for your trip to Iran (or Los Angeles).

The upside? Sadaf carries seeds so you can grow your own Iranian chives (tareh), watercress (shaahi), and sweet basil (reyhaan). They even carry Iranian-style skewers so you can finally make that kabaab koobideh the right way. Kalamala has a good tea selection – not just Sadaf brand, but Ahmad and Zarin too. If you have a taste for qottab, nazook, or goosh-e fil, they’re the place to shop. Kalamala and Sadaf both carry lots of ready-made khoreshs and spice blends, though they’re all Sadaf brand.

Just in case you’re looking for a more mainstream, well-recognized name at which to do your Iranian shopping, Kalustyan’s carries a number of Iranian products [Editor’s note: The site was down when we posted this article.]. There is no breakdown by country, but their search function makes it easy to find some Iranian items like chickpea cookies, toot, aloo, and gaz. The biggest downside aside from carrying only a few Iranian items is the price. Gourmet shopping comes with a gourmet cost.

Regardless of who you shop with, you’ll probably be exhausted after all that online decision-making. You’ll need something to refresh you. Something cold and sweet. And JOY OF ALL JOYS, Mashti Malone’s takes orders now. Rosewater saffron ice cream with pistachios? Enough said. For those craving something a little less traditional, they carry other flavors, like pomegranate sorbet and Turkish coffee ice cream. My only complaint is that they do not carry faloodeh.

So go forth and shop, cook, and eat. Revisit the tastes and smells that make Iranian cuisine so unique. Just make sure to practice restraint or the next thing you know you’ll be doubled over with a stomachache from too much cold (sard) or warm (garm) foods. And go easy on the lavashak. That stuff can be addictive.

Mariam Hosseini lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works in the nonprofit arena and pursues ethnic cooking in her spare time. She received her MA and BA in international relations with a concentration in Middle Eastern and Iranian affairs. Her website is (re)definition.