CHENNAI: Persian food with a desi tweak, or desi food with a Persian tweak, call it what you will, the five-day festival of Persian Cuisine at The Folly, Amethyst, which opened on Sunday, is guaranteed to delight your taste buds. For chef Nasrin Karimi, it is a distillation of her life in India, which has been home to her since 1980, when she left Iran in the aftermath of the revolution in 1979 and moved to Madras.
Present-day Iran, once the seat of the Persian Empire, is located between the Mediterranean, Middle East and South Asia, and the influences from all these regions have contributed to the richness of Persian cuisine. And the Sunday buffet was a great display of this abundance. For starters, one could choose from Pita bread with a variety of dips ranging from Hummus to Masto Bademjan, a brinjal delicacy, apart from an assortment of salads Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese, Shiraz Salad, Persian Potato Salad etc. “Iran is rich in vegetation, hence our cuisine includes fruits and vegetables in generous doses,” said Nasrin, who runs Shiraz Art Café at Neelangarai, ECR. And then there were the non-veg starters — Mutton Kobideh Kabab, Chicken Joojeh Kabab and Golden Fried Prawns.
From here one moves on to the main course. Rice and bread combined with meat, vegetables, nuts and fruits, form the main staple of Persian cuisine. The Sunday buffet featured Saffron and Dill Rice with Barbari Naan and Pita Bread alongside vegetarian dishes like Ghormeh Sabzi and Aloo Bokhara and non-vegetarian delicacies like Shiraz Fish and Prawn and Mutton Khoresht-e-Bamieh. “In Iran, it is not common to use gravy alongside the main course, so this is something we’ve added keeping in mind our Indian customers,” Nasrin added.
More desi vibes
The one item with an interesting Indian connection is Chicken Berry Polo. “I first tasted this during a trip to Mumbai at an Iranian restaurant run by a Parsi. The Parsis were migrants to India from Iran many centuries ago, so the dish is as much Iranian as it is Indian,” she remarked.
And now came the time for dessert. Persian Love Cake, with its aroma of pure rose water and a generous sprinkling of pistachios, certainly seemed deserving of the title. One could also choose from Guava Slush — a desi twist on the crushed-ice lemon sherbat, because there are no guavas in Iran — or Shiraz Tea, another Irani refreshment that doubles as digestive. Here again, there was a variation. “In Iran, sugar is never mixed with the tea. They pop sugar cubes into their mouth and sip the tea. The tea mixes with the sugar cube, adding to the sweetness. It also leads to less sugar consumption,” added Nasrin.