Although vegetarianism is a rather new concept in Iran, going vegetarian in this country is not difficult at all. Meatless diet is not a very common thing in Iran due to the historical, geographical and cultural characteristics of the country, but finding tasty vegetarian food is really easy since there are countless choices for vegetarians from northern Iran to the islands of the south, from western Kurdish areas to the eastern provinces. No matter which part of Iran you plan to visit, you’ll have a wide range of choices. In fact, you’ll even find it hard and confusing to choose from that many! As a Vegetarian Foods Festival will be held in 21st of December in Ilam province, we’re going to introduce some of the tastiest Persian Vegetarian foods to help you understand what you can expect to eat as a vegetarian traveler in Iran.
Ash: Iranian Pottage
First of all, let’s see what Ash is. Ash is a thick soup that comes in different forms and can be made with diverse ingredients. There are several types of Ash that you can try in Iran such as Ash-e-Reshteh, Ash-e-Jo, Ash-e-Sholeh ghalamkar and Ash-e-Doogh. As a lot of them can be made without meat, Ash is one of the best cuisines that a vegetarian can ask for in any Iranian restaurant.
Ash-e-Pahti: A Veggie Pottage from Khouzestan Province
This pottage is an all veggie traditional meal that is mainly made in Khouzestan – a province in Southern Iran – and is mostly served during the cold months of the year. It is also referred to as Hamis among locals. It includes beetroot, spinach, garlic, cowpea, mung, vinegar, salt and pepper. Syrup of tamarind is the main seasoning of this pottage and gives it an authentic Southern twist.
Kuku: an Iranian Egg-based dish
Kuku is an Iranian dish made with fried egg and different kinds of vegetables. You can find a wide range of Kuku dishes in any city of Iran since they are simple yet tasty foods that everyone loves. Kuku is usally served with bread but you can ask for rice if you wish. These tasty dishes are especially popular among vegetarians since they are all vegetable based. Although a lot of people eat Kuku as an appetizer, it can be regarded as a perfect main dish for sure. Here we introduce a few of the most popular Iranian Kuku dishes. Read on.
Kuku Tareh: Leek Kuku of Tabriz
This tatsy meal is easily made with leek, garlic and onions. Some people add pieces of walnuts and barberry to it for a more distinct flavor. Kuku Tareh is usually seasoned with cinnamon and turmeric which are the basic seasonings of many Iranian cuisines.
Trying Kuku Tareh is a must-do of your trip to Tabriz.
Kuku Sibzamini: Potato Kuku
One of the most common types of Kuku that you can ask for in any Iranian city is Kuku Sibzamini. It’s made of smashed boiled potato which is fried after being mixed with egg. Kuku Sibzamini has a crispy texture and tastes amazing if accompanied with yoghourt and fresh vegtables.
Eshkeneh Mash: Mung and Onion Soup of Khorasan
As you travel across the country, you realize the change of taste which is in a beautiful harmony with geographical characteristics of each city. Khorasan is a province in northeast of Iran and is famous for its prosperity of mung. That’s why a lot of traditional Khorasani cuisines are made with mung beans.
Eshkeneh Mash is a cuisine very similar to soup and is made from chopped onions, chopped potatoes, mung beans, black kashk – a traditional dairy product that tastes very sour – and egg. Eshkeneh is not as thick as Ash and is a perfect choice for anyone with a sour tooth.
Valak-Polo: Wild Garlic and Rice from Kermanshah
Wild Garlic, also known as Ramsons is a wild plant that grows in moist woodlands especially during spring time on hillsides. This aromatic vegetable is called Valak in Persian and is used as the main ingredient of an all vegetarian cuisine called Valak-Polo (Polo means “rice” in Persian). This meal is usually seasoned by sumac and saffron and smells so inviting. Valak-Polo is a traditional cuisine from Kermanshah province but you can find it in restaurants of Tehran as well. Note that this meal can be served with chicken but you can easily ask for a chicken-less version.
Borani: Iranian Vegetarian Dip
Borani is a yogurt based Iranian vegetarian food and is usually served as a dip. Like kuku, Borani is a simple and quick-to-prepare meal that is also very tasty. Although you can have Borani as a complete main dish, a lot of Iranians prefer to have it as an appetizer. Different types of Borani dishes have distinct tastes due to the vegetables used in each of them. Here you can read about a few of the most famous Borani dishes.
Borani-e-Bademjan: Eggplant Borani
Baked eggplants, chopped garlic, tomato paste and yogurt are all that you need for a delicious Borani of Bademjan (Bademjan means eggplant in Persian). Some people like to design their Borani dish with toasted walnuts and fresh mint leaves which makes it look like a piece of art on the dinner table. You can order this traditional vegetarian food in almost any Iranian restaurant. Make sure you have it with hot Sangak bread to feel the real taste!
Borani of Spinach
This is another tasty type of Iranian vegetarian food that you must not miss during your trip to Iran. All you need for having a surprisingly tasty Borani of Spinach are steamed spinach, garlic and of course yogurt! You can enjoy your Borani as an appetizer or have it as a perfect light dinner after a long day of touring around any of Iran’s cities.
Borani of Broad Beans from Shooshtar
Another yogurt based Iranian vegetarian food, Borani of broad beans is a traditional cuisine of Shooshtar which is one of the southern cities of Iran. It includes fresh broad beans, strained yogurt, fried onion, fried garlic and lemon powder.
Mirza Ghasemi: A Traditional Dish from Northern Iran
This traditional cuisine was originally invented by Mohammad Ghasem Khan who was the ruler of Rasht – a city in northern Iran – during the reign of Naser al-din Shah of Ghajar. That’s why it’s called Mirza Ghasemi! It’s certainly one of the best choices for any traveler who is looking for Iranian vegetarian food. Made from eggplants, tomatoes, eggs and garlic, Mirza Ghasemi is one of the most famous local cuisines of northern Iran.
By the way, garlic plays an important role in the kitchens of northern provinces of the country. In fact, northern Iran is a heaven for all garlic lovers!
Kaleh Joosh of Isfahan
A very traditional cuisine which is still very popular among Iranians, Kaleh joosh is mainly made from kashk – a traditional dairy product that tastes sour – onion, walnuts and mint. This delicious cuisine is a good option for anyone who looks for a light Iranian vegetarian food since it has a soup-like texture and a heavenly taste! You can find Kaleh Joosh in Azeri cities of Iran as well but they are usually served with meatballs there. However, you can ask them to bring you a meatless Kaleh Joosh and enjoy your vegetarian meal.
Kashk-o-Bademjan is an Iranian vegetarian food that is usually chosen as an appetizer for fancy Iranian dinner parties. But since it is rich with eggplants and lots of walnuts, you can have it as a main dish too. Kashk-o-Bademjan includes fried eggplants, toasted walnuts, fried garlic and lots of kashk. The pieces of walnuts give this cuisine a thick texture. And the fried mint which is added to it in the end is what makes Kashk-o-Bademjan smell so appetizing. As said earlier, kashk is an Iranian dairy product that has a sour taste. A few full spoons of it are an integral component of this traditional food so if you are a fan of eggplants and are fine with a little taste of sour, we bet you will fall in love with kashk-o-bademjan!