If you are familiar with Persian food or have Persian friends you know what Sabzi Khordan is. You must have at least tried it or are interested in trying it? Sabzi means herbs, Khordan is a verb and it means to eat, but when you put them together it means fresh herbs that Persians love to eat with most of their meals.
Sabzi Khordan can be as simple as piazcheh (scallions), jafari (parsley), geshneez (cilantro), and torobcheh (radishes). At least these are the herbs that you can find in most American supermarkets. Many years ago when I moved to U.S. even cilantro was a novelty.
These days you might be lucky enough to also find shivid (dill), reyhan (basil), nana (mint), and even tareh (Persian chives) in most states.
Persians also love their Sabzi Khordan in a very simple rustic form, with a humble chunk of feta cheese and Sangak (Persian flat bread), lavash, tortilla, pita or nann bread. If some kind of flat bread is not available, a loaf of crusty baguette will do too! Because you see, Persian food is not all about fancy kabobs, expensive saffron, rare cardamom, unusual rosewater, or other exotic spices; Persian food is also about simple and modest ingredients that are pleasing to the palate.
So here is a priceless tip to anyone who intends to make a memorable meal for a Persian friend: Yes we can be sophisticated with our food, but we also appreciate very simple culinary pleasures. Say it is the first time you are trying your hand at a Persian food like Khoresh Gheymeh, Baghali Polo, or something that you are not sure how it will turn out. Let’s say you have an assortment similar to what you see in this picture, chances are you are going to make a lasting impression, it really is that simple. Persians love their Sabzi Khordan, torshi (pickled veggies), piaz (raw onion), panir (cheese, particularly Feta), and of course some kind of flat bread like Sangak, or a good crusty baguette.
So what if the rice turns out mushy, the khoresh is not quite ja oftadeh (ready), or that the beloved Persian TahDig is too soft or scorched? Relax! You can impress with an assortment of fresh herbs, Sabzi Khordan, feta cheese, some bread, and if you like nuts add some walnut halves to the tray! If you’re lucky to be living in warmer climates you might even add some tarkhoon (French tarragon), marzeh (summer savory), or shahi (garden cress) to your platter, and your sofreh (table) will look mighty inviting to most Persians. Spring is almost here, plant some herbs and treat yourself and your Persian friends to some Sabzi Khordan!
Fae's Twist & Tango says
Although it is simple, but very staple item of the Persian dinning table. A beautiful post with a very nice narrative. 🙂
Fae thank you! I love herbs and I cherish the fragrance of a bagful of tarkhoon, marzeh, reyhan, dill,.. and love eating them even more!
Do you know what the Rashti sabzi khalavash is? Can you get it in the US
Dear Jenny; khalvash is from the mint family that almost exclusively grows in the northern part of Iran. One of the herbs that is suggested by some cooks as a substitute is pooneh koohi, which is pennyroyal in English; I personally have not tried this herb. I have been doing some research and some are also calling oregano ‘pooneh koohi,’ which is very common in the herb gardens outside Iran; I especially like the Greek oregano with a spicy flavor.
Based on the Persian language Wikipedia page for khalvash which gives the scientific name as Mentha pulegium, I think it might be the same as English pennyroyal: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentha_pulegium
It sounds like it needs to be used with caution due to strong effects on the body, and substitutes may be preferable for health reasons anyway.
I always read in Persian cookbooks that Persians are passionate about their herb gardens, especially for sabzi khordan. But all the Iranian men and women I know- young and old, men and women- don’t have the faintest interest in growing anything in their yards despite our warm climate, not buying fresh herbs. They only use dried herb packets and dishes like ghorme sabzi, and serve just iceberg lettuce with instant mayonnaise for salads.
Anyways, I once ate what must have been sabzi khordan from a second-generation overseas Iranian and I couldn’t believe how good the salad was. I was even more surprised it had no salad dressing, cheese or even salt. I’m trying to grow as many herbs in my yard as I can to try re-create it!.
Hi Edward; I enjoyed reading your email and I’m happy to meet a Persian food fan who also has a green thumb! I’m thinking maybe your Iranian friends have given in to a busy life which leaves no time for enjoying good food. I agree it is a challenge to find markets that will provide authentic sabzi khordan with specialty herbs, but nowadays most supermarkets at least have the basic fresh herbs; so there is no excuse not to enjoy this very healthy food. By the same token, ghormeh sabzi should really be made with fresh herbs 😉
I’m happy to hear that you will be planting your own herb garden. Wish you good luck and hope you’ll get back to me with a progress report! Here is my post on herbs that you might have already seen:
I love sabi khordan! I used to eat it daily and spent much time picking the herbs fresh from the market and then washing them.
I grow my own so no problem here getting the right formula for khordan.
Just wondering how to store them? In iran we stored them wrapped in a cotton towel.
Is this the best method?
Hi Marium, I used to love shopping at the herb bazaars in Iran, fragrant with all the fresh picked herbs. Yes, fortunately most culinary herbs thrive in home gardens. I usually drain the washed sabzi, then air dry them on a kitchen towel. After couple of hours I wrap them in a dry towel and place them in a plastic bag to prevent them from drying out.