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62 - Casual meals in Iran - a chapter on "dizi" and other stews

IRAN | Saturday, 24 November 2012 | Views [534]

Iran - food - dizi stone

Iran - food - dizi stone "cooker"

Stews feature heavily in Iranian daily cuisine.  I’ve found that they can be relatively light and almost watery, or heavy with lots of meat and potatoes.  The light stews seem to be generically called “khoresht”, the common elements of which seem to be a thin tomato soup base, beans or lentils and small chunks of lamb.   A popular everyday khoresht has thin French fries sprinkled over it (I am curious as to the origins of this but haven’t yet been able to find out the reason).   Another version has eggplant.  These stews are eaten with rice and/or lavash (soft flatbread).

A more festive weekend stew is called “dizi”.  It is prepared in a special cooker which comprises a metal cooker into which hot charcoal is placed, and a stone pot placed on top.  I saw these cookers sold in the bazaar in Kashan and they are around a metre high and the stone pots can comfortably cook a stew of up to six persons.  

I tried dizi in a lovely restaurant in Hamedan which was an old hammam (bathhouse) converted into a restaurant.  The dizi is served on an individual basis with each guest having his own ceramic pot of stew.  The stew is again a well-flavoured but thin soup base with large chunks of potatoes and lamb.  The diners also share a few metal “hammer” like implements.  First one uses the hammer to separate the soup from the hard ingredients in the stew.  The soup is poured into a bowl and pieces of lavash are torn into the soup.  The bread is left to soak for a little while in the soup so that it is transformed into a thick and hearty soup.  Sort of like a French onion soup concept except the bread is thinner and torn into bite-sized pieces.   The meat and vegetables of the dizi are put separately into a metal bowl and then one uses the hammer to pound the meat and vegetables into a pulp.  The consistency of the pulp can be as fine or coarse as the diner prefers and one can also add additional salt and spices into the pulp.  The pulp is like a thick pate that can then be spooned onto the lavash to be eaten.   Although the original dizi is not in any way oily or meaty, with the addition of copious amounts of bread, it becomes a very substantial meal, not to mention an enjoyable occasion for children who no doubt get a lot of fun out of pounding the meat and vegetables into a pulp.

Families normally start cooking the dizi early on a Friday morning and then eat it for lunch.  I was told that it is rarely eaten for dinner as it is so heavy.

Another traditional stew is “fesenjun” which is not easily found in casual restaurants.  It is a stew which has pieces of chicken in a thick walnut and pomegranate sauce, which is eaten with simple steamed rice.  Fesenjun comes in sour, sweet and mixed sour and sweet versions. The walnut and pomegranate sauce is delicious but unfortunately the chicken is often chunks of dry white meat.  Pomegranates are quite prominently featured in Persian cuisine and they can be found sold fresh or in juices or cooked as in fesenjun.


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