As a Persian food lover you must be familiar with all the fresh produce that goes into most of the Persian dishes. Persian cuisine is a healthy mixture of very nutritious vegetarian meals as well balanced meals with meat and fresh vegetables.
Herbs also play a very important role in Persian cooking. Based on availability, the herbs are used fresh, frozen, or dried. Of course nothing can beat the taste of fresh herbs, but having jars of dried herbs or packages of chopped frozen herbs is also extremely convenient as any Persian cook would tell you. I have posted different methods for storing herbs previously. As you’re very well aware, spices are also indispensable in Persian cuisine. Some produce shops in Iran, provide their customers with a choice of prepped vegetables (sliced green beans and celery, lower left corner of the top photo). This prep is a time saver for a busy cook who may use these vegetables right away or briefly saute/blanch and freeze for a later use.
I have had many of you ask about my preferred brands among the store-bought products that are frequently used in my recipes, so I’ve decided to share some brand names with you. These are simply what I use in my own kitchen and I feel this will make things a little easier for those who are tired of guesswork when shopping for ingredients. I will be adding to this list as time goes by, and I would love to read your comments about the products that you use in your kitchen.
Saffron is the most expensive spice that you can purchase by weight. I use saffron in most of my recipes on this blog. Due to the high price of this “Red Gold” spice, I have included the ‘optional’ choice in some recipes. However, there are some recipes that simply will not work without saffron! It is important to buy the best saffron strands that you can get! I have been using this saffron for as long as I can remember. The fragrance and color is spectacular and the flavor is out of this world. I get mine from Iran, but you might also be able to find this brand online.
I have used many brands of rice that are available in the States. Among some of my favorites in the past have been Pari and Tilda, but the markets in our area have stopped carrying them. I’m in the habit of trying different brands of basmati rice, and most of them have been pretty good, with only a few exceptions! This brand of rice,’Dunar’ is my latest find and I’m very happy with it! It is more aromatic than the brands that I have used before and the grains are longer. I don’t soak the rice that I buy here in the States, because the grains tend to crumble when soaked. I have posted a complete tutorial for making Steamed Persian Rice and tahdig on my blog.
The Farmer’s Club rice is yet another delicious long grain white Basmati rice. The grains are ready in about 5-7 minutes of par boiling. This rice produces very reliable steamed results every time, with visually perfect long grains that are also very fluffy and light, without too much hassle.
Aahu Barah and Royal are two other brands that I’ve used for many years; both produce good steamed rice.
This is another brand of basmati that I’ve tried; as you can see the grains are long and I like the results in steamed rice.
This is a brand of smoked rice, or as we call it in farsi ‘berenj doodi.’ The grains are long, with a distinct smoked flavor. I love this especially with kabobs and Sabzi Polo; it reminds me of the amazing rice that we have in Iran. You can’t miss the smoked smell when washing this rice, but don’t get tempted to wash it more than couple of times; once it is steamed, the aroma is very subtle. The point to remember about this rice is that at the initial stage of “par cooking,” the grains can take twice as long to cook than the regular basmati brands. To give you an idea about the time, I usually boil the white basmati about 7-10 minutes; this one takes about 15 minutes, or longer. I would recommend boiling it until the grains are soft around the edges, with a firm center.
This is a brown basmati rice, and it definitely has different properties than the white basmati. It takes much longer to cook and it’s chewy with a nutty flavor, which I like! I have steamed this rice using the same method as my white rice (I used lavash tahdig with it, and it was delicious)! However, the look and taste are very different; the grains sort of split open and the flavor takes some getting used to for some people, especially when the rice is used with the traditional Persian khoresh recipes, like, Shirin Polo, ghormeh sabzi, bademjan, or fesenjoon! I prefer to cook the brown rice as a side dish with the method that I’ve used in my Wild Rice recipe. I have used herbs and different spices in this recipe, and love the results. I really like this rice as a healthier version of white rice, but I’ve also learned to appreciate its different flavor, and not as a substitute for the traditional Persian polo!
Jasmine rice is delicious with an aroma like no other; almost like the aroma that fills the air around the rice paddies ‘shalizar, in Gilan; do you remember? I’ve been cooking this brand for many years and I love it. If you can’t find this particular one, just trust your nose! Move the bag around and take a snif; if you can smell a delicious fragrance, you’ve found your brand! The grains are shorter than basmati with a soft and sticky texture that makes it perfect for Kateh, or my sticky rice.. I also use this rice in Shir Berenj and Sholeh Zard.
This is the brand of rose water ‘golab’ that I use in whipped cream, Baklava, Fereni and other Persian desserts. I have used many other products in the past but was never pleased with any of them, until I found this one. The flavor is very subtle, when used in small amounts. I always recommend to use golab to taste, to achieve the taste that you’re most happy with. What tastes good to one person might be very perfumy, or not strong enough to someone else. In most recipes golab is added to the syrup or some other liquid and it’s real easy to start with a small amount, taste it and then add more if needed.
Limoo amani is dried Persian limes; it is used as a souring agent in a lot of Persian khoresh and stews. I find this brand to be delicious and comparable to the limoo that I usually get from Iran.
Some Persian recipes such as Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi and Khoresh Gheymeh are simply not quite the same without limoo amani.
This is a saffron flavored nabat, or ‘rock candy’ that we enjoy on the side of brewed Persian black tea, and Chai Gol Gavzaban. It is also believed that nabat stirred in a small amount of hot water, is a natural remedy for mild stomach upsets and belly aches.
This is the brand that I use for recipes that call for pomegranate concentrate. As you can see there are 3 products in the market. The concentrate, which is the one that I use in fesenjan and vegetarian khoresh bademjan, is sweeter than the ‘molasses.’ If you can only find the molasses in your markets, simply add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to the khoresh, to taste, to cut down on the tartness. I have not tried the pomegranate ‘paste’ yet. It seems to have the same consistency as the concentrate, but the paste that you can find in Iran, as well as if you make it at home is usually thicker than concentrate. If you’ve tried this product let me know what you think.
I like the taste and color of this black tea. The leaves are long and not crumbled, so the brewed tea has a very nice and clear color. The maroon box is the regular black tea with a fantastic flavor just on its own. If you like your tea more aromatic, you may add a handful of the tea leaves from the yellow box, which is the Earl Grey, to a box of regular black tea for some extra fragrance.
These are two types of sugar cubes or, ‘ghand’ that is usually served on the side of Persian tea. The traditional way of enjoying ghand is to put one cube in your mouth and take small sips of hot tea; this sweetens the tea while you drink it. Ideally you want the cube to last until your tea is finished; though it’s not unusual for someone to drink their tea with 2-3 ghands! The Alvand ghand is very compact and does not dissolve as soon as you take a sip of tea. The Domino brand on the other hand is fast dissolving and works best if you prefer to sweeten your tea by stirring a cube or two into the cup and enjoy it.