Central Iran, namely the provinces of Esfahan, Yazd, and Shiraz make up the golden triangle that contains some of the most important historical sites in Iran. Historically, central Iran has had a dry climate, as it is surrounded by vast deserts. Consequently, agricultural products available to the citizens were somewhat limited in the old days. These limitations lead to incredible creativity in the cuisine of central Iran. Also, having been on the ancient Silk Road, the cuisine of central Iran has been influenced by both Asian and European cuisines.
The first noticeable characteristic of central Iran cuisine are the bold flavors used. The use of sweet or sour ingredients is quite common in dishes from central Iran. Local herbs and spices also tend to have richer aroma and taste. While red meat is a key ingredient in many dishes, the good news for vegetarians is that they are spoiled for choice. So let us tease you with some of the local dishes of this region.
Cuisine of Yazd
If you are traveling to Yazd, make sure you get there hungry! “ Ghalyeh Kadoo”, a stew made with butternut squash, kidney beans, walnut and mung bean. Ghalyeh Kadoo is a rich, flavorsome stew, usually cooked without any meats. You can enjoy it with rice, bread, or just on its own. If you fancy a meaty stew, try “Khoresht Beh Aloo”. This stew has an intriguing and unique taste. It is made with chunks of red meat (usually lamb), dried plum, Quince, ginger, and saffron.
Cuisine of Esfahan
While there is a diverse range of local dishes available in Esfahan, “Beryani” (not to be mistaken with the Indian Biryani! The word Biryan – meaning fried or roasted – is originally Persian, but we do not intend to spark a debate about who wins the Biryani trophy) is probably the flag-bearer of Esfahan cuisine. It is made with minced mutton, minced liver, walnut and local spices. It looks a little like a burger and it is served on flatbread (no rice!). It is not exactly a dish on the weight watchers list, but its incredibly tender texture and wonderful rich taste make it a must-try for meat lovers. Ask your tour guide or the hotel concierge or even the friendly locals for the best Beryani house near you. If you’ve had Beryani for lunch and fancy a light dinner to wash it all down with, try “Kaleh Joush”, another famous dish in the cuisine of Esfahan and central Iran. It is a light soup, made with walnut, Kashk (whey liquid) and fragrant green herbs. To make your Kaleh Joush more filling, ask for some “Naan” (Iranian flat bread) on the side.
Cuisine of Shiraz and Fars Province
In the eyes of many, the city of Shiraz is the literary and romantic capital of Iran. Shiraz is also famous for its orange blossoms. There is a saying that if you go to Shiraz around the springtime, the wonderful scent of orange blossom will make you fall in love. But we believe whichever time of the year you go there, your stomach will fall in love with the cuisine of Shiraz. Fancy a mixed-rice dish? Then Shirazi “Kalam Polo” is certainly not to be missed. It is made with fried white cabbage, small meatballs or shredded red meat and a mixture of fragrant local herbs. Shirazi Kalam Polo is a beautiful dish with a wonderful aroma of herbs and a rich and satisfying taste that have made it the flag bearer of Shirazi cuisine. If by this point of your journey you feel you’ve had enough rice and want to try something without rice, try Shiraz’s “Koufteh Holou”. Kofteh is a very common and popular dish across Iran and is usually in the form of a large meat or rice (or both) ball, stewed in a little water and various flavorings. In fact, most areas around Iran have their own local Koufteh. But Shirazi Koufteh Houlou is made distinct for its unique use of fruits vegetables and spices. It is made with minced meat, grated carrots, boiled eggs and a rare local herb called Nargesi (it is similar to baby spinach in texture and taste) and garnished with dried fruits. Whatever your taste and preference in food, you are spoiled for choice in Shiraz.
Desserts and Pastries in Central Iran
If you have a sweet tooth, the cuisine of central Iran is sure to appetize you with fantastic desserts. Ranging from little pastries to local cookies to warm and cold desserts, there is something for every taste and season. If you are in Yazd, you must try traditional Yazdi pastries. Yazdi pastries include a wide array of small cookies, and baklavas along with delicacies like Iranian cotton candy also known as Pashmak. Try “Haji Badoom”, little round cookies made with sweet almonds that are a perfect partner for your afternoon tea. Don’t forget Esfahan’s famous nougats, “Gaz”. It is made with liquid glucose, rose water, sugar and small pieces of pistachios or almonds. If you are in Shiraz during the warm season, cool down with a tasty “Faloudeh”. Shirazi Faloudeh is made with frozen starch noodles, rose water, syrup and lemon juice. You’ll find this refreshing cold dessert almost everywhere in Shiraz.
Much like the rest of Iran, it is not always easy to find genuine local central Iran cuisine while traveling to this region. These traditional dishes are mostly served in small restaurants and regular people’s houses. Your Iran tour provider needs to have the latest information about all destinations you travel to in order to provide you with the best local cuisine. Culinary packages provided by Hayahoo Tours allow travelers to try the distinct local dishes and delicacies. Iranian cuisine is incredibly diverse, making Iran a great destination for foodies. Plan your meals in Iran wisely so that you can enjoy this unique aspect of travel to Iran.