Two years ago a lovely Indian lady called Mansi contacted me to seek possibilities to work together. Being obsessed with Persian food like most Iranains, at first, I wondered how our cuisines could ever have any similarities. She suggested that we host a Persian-Indian fusion dinner. We discussed our menus, our ingredients and cooking methods. It was only then that I realised Iranian and Indian cuisines have a vast range of similarities.
Despite my great love for Persian food I realised how wonderfully balanced the recipes are in Indian cuisine. Everything makes sense, all the spice combinations, the ingredients and the cooking style... Indian cuisine is one honest, balanced and sensible cuisine in the entire world. Before our dinner party, we decided to cook together to let each other see and experience each cuisine in real life. Her way of integrating spices in her food was awestrucking. Mansi barely used store bought spices, grinding pretty much all the spices right there on the spot. She even made her own Garam Masala.
The use of rice and aromatic spices such as roses, cinnamon and cardamom was the first similarity that caught my attention. In both cuisines we use lots of roses and rose water in our desserts, stews and. even rice dishes. We sprinkle ground rose petals on our Loobiya Polo, make rose petal tea and use rose water in our desserts, drinks and stews. How Indian of the Iranians.
Iranians adore their rice and have a very complicated way of cooking it. Soak it first, cook it halfway through, rinse it, put it back in the pan with vegetables, meat and spices and cook it again using a cloth to cover the lid of the pan to create a steam bath. They call it biryani, we call it mixed polo. Indians do exactly the same. I guessed, yeah... We love complicating the cooking style to guarantee more taste. We do anything to make our food tastier. We spend more time in the kitchen, cook our food in a more intricate way, use freshly ground spices, even sweat and suffer to deliver the best quality food for our loved ones.
Lavash bread (nan), is another shared food between these two countries. We love tearing a piece of Nan and dunk it in our stews or even make a huge bite that is literally much bigger than our mouth and scrumptiously push it in our mouth, close our eyes and cherish the explosion of taste in every corner of our mouth.
The use of nuts in our desserts and savoury dishes, sprinkling of fried onions to give extra crunch and taste to our plates and the obsession of "do it all at home" and the resistance of buying shop-bought stuff are all so Indian-Iranian.
Serving yoghurt as sides is also an Iranian-Indian obsession. Biting into raw onion wedges is also another Indian-Iranian eating habit.
For thousands of years we called Shirazi salad Shirazi salad, naming our salad after our beautiful city of Shiraz but then it all changed for me when I saw Mansi making the exact same salad and calling it Kachumber.
Eating her food impresses me every single time. Her way of presenting, her effort to perfect every dish reminds me of my mom. Nothing is enough, we constantly want to add more taste. As if there is not enough flavour in our main dishes we don't cease to impress with our side dishes and drinks. By garnishing our dishes with saffron, nuts and spices we still want to take our dishes to the next level. And when our food finally rests in our guests stomachs and we receive a satisfactory smile, our mission is accomplished.