Cooking for singer Anaida Parvaneh is an art and every chef an artist. In her recent piece of œuvre d’art, she brings Persian streaks of tasteful kinds. In a pop-up at SodaBottleOpenerWala, called Postcards from Persia, dishes infused with authentic ingredients from Iran have been passionately integrated.
Creating is her catalyst, conjuring a sense of seamless inquiry into the process of modelling something out of nothing. “I enjoy singing as I do cooking. Once you succeed in something, it can get boring and if you stay in one place you feel stale. I believe in exploring and experimenting,” she says.
Enthusiastically, for years she visited all restaurants that claimed to offer Iranian food, but left each feeling disappointed. Lack of authenticity was a big problem and Parvaneh soon realised the reason. “It’s risky. Simple. So, people Indianise food and how would anyone know better? In a land where we love our chilies, ‘you have to alter it if you want to sell it’ I was told,” says the culinary artist sighing.
In the variety she offers, be sure to find a suitable balance. Iranian cuisine, she tells us, is flavourful but light. Persian food uses spices but in moderation and usually it’s one or two ruling a dish. “Saffron is common in all dishes as it’s a favourite but cinnamon, pepper, and others also find their way often. Veggies are cooked lightly. Rice is strained like pasta, starch is thrown out and then you do a dumpukht for most of the rice dishes,” she says.
So what can you find in the menu? To begin with, Doogh, a mint and rose petals flavoured Iranian yoghurt drink. Then you have Irani Chai, a black tea brewed in a porcelain pot and served with dates and sugar cubes. You have variations of raita like the Mast-O-Khiyar, an Iranian style raita with cucumber, dried mint and rose petals flavoured with sea salt. There is the Khoresht e Bamiye or ladies finger cooked in tomato and onions topped with fried eggplant and fine dried fried potatoes, along with eggplant roll or Kashk-o-Bademjan.
Try the Dill and Fava Bean Rice or the Baghali Polo or the Lubiya Polo, which is minced lamb and French bean rice. Kababs such as Chelo, Koobideh and Jujeh are cooked up too. “I got some ingredients flown from Iran, so for guests get to taste something completely new,” says Parvaneh.
Creation of food for the artiste is not disconnected with the idea of mind and body equilibrium.
A thing she likes to share with as many people as she can is an elixir that guarantees to manage weight, help relieve arthritis, blood pressure, diabetes and skin and hair problems. Called Soup e Jadooi, it’s excellent for cold and flu, she informs.
Her mother was a naturopath, who didn’t allow the family to take allopathic. In its place, she had a herbal remedy for everything and Parvaneh learnt a lot from her. “I enjoyed creating dishes with ingredients aimed at certain diseases and the challenge was to make them tasty too. “It has strong anti aging properties too,” she smiles. Wouldn’t you absolutely consider trying it?