By Samira Mohebali*

Eating like an Iranian: A survey on Persian food

January 20, 2018 - 11:16

In this series of articles you can trace cookery art in Iran during history up to present. The survey sheds light on different aspects of Iranian life, culture and civilization.

From Arab conquest to Timurid era

Persian cookery has faced vast changes during centuries from the Arab conquest of Iran (633–654) until the end of Timurid Empire (1370–1507).

Arabs, who conquered Persia in the 7th century, had a simple diet and cookery due to their climatic condition and their lifestyle as Bedouins. 

Nevertheless after the conquest, they were influenced by Persian cookery and culture their interaction with ordinary people and the existence of Iranian representatives at their courts. In other words, a cultural transmission through food and cooking happened at that time.

According to historical sources, Abdallah ibn al-Muktafi, the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad (944-946), ordered some foods like roasted lamb, pan-fried chicken and partridge, spicy cheese, borani (Persian appetizer made with yogurt and some type of vegetable), haleem (Persian stew with wheat or barley) and sholezard (Persian rice pudding dessert), which indicated the effects of Persian foods on Arab courts.

However, the influence was mutual. The Persian cooking was also impacted by the food culture of Arabs who previously conquered lands in northern Africa, southern Europe like Morocco and Spain.  

For instance, some words in Persian language were replaced with Arab words in cookery in that era.

The case was the same for other dynasties like mid-11th century by the Seljuq Turks, Ilkhanate (1256–1335) and Timurid Empire (1370–1507).
Although the above conquerors mostly used wild plants and game meats, their cookery influenced Persian cooking as well.

Using noodles in Persian cookery or baking Borek or Boqra, a kind filled pastries made of a thin flaky dough, in Persian cuisines are some traces of Turkish dynasties on Persian cuisines.
Generally, the Persian cookery faced changes after Arab conquest and what we know as Persian cooking is a combination of Arab Turk and Persian cookery and nothing left from pre-Islamic era.

*Samira Mohebali is a senior expert in Iran studies


Leave a Comment

2 + 15 =