The cuisine of Iran is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, as well as culinary traditions and styles, distinct to their regions. The main Persian cuisines are combinations of rice with meat, chicken or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots and raisins. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavourings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes. Onions and garlic are normally used in the preparation of the accompanying course, but are also served separately during meals, either in raw or pickled form. Iranian food is not spicy.
Popular Iranian dishes include chelow kabab (barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresht (stew that is served with white Basmati or Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, and others), aash (a thick soup: as an example Ash-e anar), kookoo (vegetable omeletes), pollo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including loobia pollo, albaloo pollo, Sabzi pollo, zereshk pollo and others), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetisers and desserts is extensive.
Kateh is the traditional dish of Gilan, and is simply Persian rice cooked in water, butter and salt until the water is fully absorbed. This method results in rice that is clumped together and is the predominant style of cooking rice in the Caspian region. In Gilan and Mazandaran, kateh is also eaten as a breakfast meal, either heated with milk and jam, or cold with Persian cheese (panir, Persian variant of feta) and garlic. Kateh is commonly eaten in other parts of Iran because of its short cooking time and easy preparation, and is prescribed widely as a natural remedy for those who are sick with the common cold or flu, and also for those suffering from stomach pains and ulcers. The famous Iranian caviar and Caspian fish roes hails from that region, and is served with eggs, in frittatas (kuku sabzi) or omelettes.
Khoresht-e mast (yogurt stew) is a traditional dish in Isfahan. Unlike other stews despite its name it is not served as a main dish and with rice. Since it is more of a sweet pudding it is usually served as a side dish or dessert. The dish is made with yogurt, lamb/mutton or chicken, saffron, sugar and orange zest. Iranians either put the orange zest in water for one week or longer or boil them for few minutes so the orange peels become sweet and ready for use. People in Iran make a lot of delicate dishes and jam with hull of fruits. This dish often accompanies celebrations and weddings.
Isfahan is famous for its beryooni. This dish is made of baked lung and mutton that is minced and then cooked in a special small pan over the fire. The food is generally eaten with a certain type of bread, nan-e taftton.
Ghormeh sabzi (herb stew) and gheimeh (split-pea stew) are traditional stews of Azerbaijan. Now, they have also became popular in other parts of Iran.
There are certain accompaniments (mokhalafat) which are essential to every Iranian meal at lunch (nahar) and dinner (shaam), regardless of the region. These include, first and foremost, a plate of fresh herbs, called sabzi (basil, coriander, cilantro, fenugreek, tarragon, Persian watercress or shaahi), a variety of flat breads, called naan or noon (sangak, lavash, barbari), panir, sliced and peeled cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and onions, yoghurt, and lemon juice. Persian gherkins (khiyarshur) and pickles (torshi) are also considered essential in most regions.
There are many dessert dishes, ranging from Bastani-e Za'far?ni (Persian ice cream with saffron, also called Bastani-e Akbar-Mashti, later on called Gol-o Bolbol as well) to the faludeh, a sort of frozen sorbet, made with thin starch noodles and rose water. Persian ice cream is flavoured with saffron, rosewater and chunks of heavy cream.
There are also many types of sweets. The sweets divide into two categories: Shirini Tar and Shirini Khoshk. The first category consists of French-inspired pastries with heavy whole milk whipped cream, glazed fruit toppings, tarts, custard-filled eclairs and a variety of cakes. Some have an Iranian twist, such as the addition of pistachio, saffron and walnuts. The second category consists of more traditional sweets: Shirini-e Berenji (a type of rice cookie), Shirini-e Nokhodchi (clover shaped, chickpea cookies), Kolouche (a large cookie usually with a walnut or fig filling), Shirini-e Keshmeshi (raisin and saffron cookies), Shirini-e Yazdi (muffins or cupcakes, originated in the city of Yazd), Nan-e kulukhi (a kind of large and thick cookie similar to clod inside without any filling), and more.
Three others - that is, Zulbia, Bamieh and Gush-e Fil are very popular. Bamieh is an oval-shaped sweet dough piece, deep fried and then covered with a syrup (traditionally with honey). Zulbia is the same sort of dough, also deep-fried, but it is poured into the oil so that it twirls,then covered with the same syrup (or honey). It has become popular in other parts of the world, and is known as funnel cake in North America and Jalebi in India. Gush-e Fil is also deep-fried dough, fried in the shape of a flat elephant's ear and then covered with sugar powder. Of course, no discussion of Persian desserts would be complete without one of the classics, Halvardeh. Halv? comes in various qualities and varieties, from mainly sugar, to sesame seed extract, which is known as tahini in the west, with pistachio, and Iran produces some of the best.