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Persian Tea (Chai)

England isn’t the only place where you can find a great cup of tea that’s both flavorful and comforting and that pairs perfectly well with scones or biscottis—it is a favored hot beverage in many different places and cultures around the world and a common drink any time of the day. In Iran, tea is a common Iranian food known as “chai”: a popular drink that has made its way to various regions of the world-- including the U.S –whose popularity in coffee bars has made it as sought after as a latte or cappuccino.

Persian Tea

With different styles of chai such as Kashmiri chai (a smooth, milky tea made with cardamom—a flavorful plant-- and pistachios), and paani kam (an extremely strong drink), chai in Iran simply means chai as it is: a holiday in a cup untouched by anything other than what it’s made with. Its taste and look is similar to other forms of chai in India (Masala Chai) but as its cultures are different, different ways of drinking and preparing this cultural focal point/meal staple are rendered.

If you have never had a cup of chai, the taste can be quite overwhelming—but in a good way! Mainly, chai is a basic black tea packed with a big spiced flavor often acting as an aid for digestion as well as giving one a positive sense of well-being. The main spices that make up chai are cloves, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, and cardamom. Some chai drinkers have been known to add cloves, bay leaves, pepper corns, fennel, or anise, too.

For the residents of Iran, chai is an important part of everyday life and a must-have during any celebration. Chai has also found itself as a packaged drink that you can buy wherever you purchase your groceries and as an elevated and evolving new drink that includes several variations such as iced chai’s, chocolate chai, non-fat chai, and decaf chai. But traditionally, this hot, creamy, Iranian food is drank black with spices and sugars. And if chai sounds like something you might enjoy, first, make sure to look in your local market to see if there’s chai available, and if not, simple ingredients from the store can conjure up a fabulous cup of chai as good (or if not better) than a cup of chai in Iran, India, or anywhere else. 


Kalamala carries a variety of Persian Tea's here

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Barbari Bread

According to the Dehkhoda Dictionary of Persian Language, the word Barbari holds a few different meanings. The first is in reference to the Barbars (people living in Khorasan near the borders of Iran) and another is in reference to Barbari dialect: a language spoken in eastern Iran, Afghanistan, central northwest Afghanistan, and west of the Hazarajat. “Barberi” is also the first word in “Barbari bread”: an Iranian food that’s primarily made in Iran and a popular form of flat bread that out bakes others in competition.

Barbari Bread

First baked by the Barbar people and brought to Tehran-- the capital of Iran-- during the Qajar period between 1785 and 1925, Barbari bread became a popular type of breakfast bread throughout this time period. With many styles of breads such as Sangak bread, being made simultaneously, Barbari bread was the common choice of Iranian food amongst Persian people and remains the modern day choice of meal accompaniment today.

Thicker and fluffier than Lavash bread, a thin flat bread popular in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, Barbari bread-- heavily steeped in the delicate flavors of the oil and sesame seeds  it is often baked with-- has a soft and golden exterior with a delicate bready scent that is strong, tantalizing and distinct. Many restaurants in Iran tend to add ewe’s milk, or “Tabriz cheese” (similar to feta cheese) on top of it, and will sometimes offer a creamy butter spread to top the warm, fresh baked bread pieces right when it comes out of the oven.

If you’re thinking about making your own version of this wonderful Iranian food (and are willing to get your hands a little doughy), then why not experiment with a recipe that will guarantee you a great batch of homemade Barbari bread? If you’ve ever made rolls or bread in the past and are familiar with the process of making dough, then this need not apply to you, but for those who haven’t, make sure to compile some dry active yeast, water, sugar, sea salt, all-purpose flour, oil (or butter), cornmeal, sesame seeds, and baking powder for your recipe, and also make sure you have a baking stone and baker’s peel as well. 


Kalamala offers a wide variety of fresh Iranian bread including barbari for sale. 


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The Ultimate Fruit Snack: Lavashak (Iranian Fruit Roll)

Pre-dating the millions of name brand and off-brand fruit snacks—like Fruit-By-the-Foot and Fruit Roll-Ups—lavashak—a popular Iranian Food and sweet treat, sticky to the touch and decadent in taste—are thinly sliced pieces of fruit-juicy deliciousness and the originator behind this global snacking trend.


With a smooth fruity taste layered and spread into rectangular sheets of perfection, the lavashak's berry-flavored tones—both tart and sweet—embody this simple 

yet delicious delicacy. And the fact that it’s low in fat and high in vitamins also adds to lavashak’s appeal. But as a common nutritional treat—loved by children and children at heart—lavashak (aka: “fruit leather”) solves more than just the common sweet tooth.

In many Iranian villages today, townsfolk utilize lavashak’s tough, leather-like weight—and equally-leathery feel—to preserve and protect their fruit harvests and other crops during harsh Iranian winters. And some villagers even cultivate their homemade soups and sauces from the semi-sour-yet-flavorful Iranian Food for a unique ingredient addition. Though it’s hard to tell who, where, and why this Iranian Food  was invented, many people—and recipes from antiquated cookbooks—believe that lavashak was first introduced in the Middle East several centuries ago. And some recipes in older Armenian cookbooks even suggest that the earliest flavor of “fruit leather” was apricot as opposed to the traditional plum berry.

Many recipes for Iranian fruit rolls are commonly found in health stores and organic cooking websites online, but the ingredients can be found at any local grocer. All you needed is a variety of different fruits such as pomegranates, prunes, plums, sour plums, sour cherries, or whatever kind of fruit you want. You’ll also want to make sure you have a pan ready to grease and some cheese cloth. After those few steps, all you need is some sunlight.


Kalamala stocks a wide variety of delicious lavashak

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Stewing Up Delicious Persian Memories with Fesenjan

For those of Persian and Iranian descent, just hearing the word Fesenjan conjures up memories of home, family and childhood.  The dish speaks directly to the foundations of Mesopotamian cuisine as well as to our mouths and stomachs.  And for anyone with curious or adventurous palates, after your first spoonful of this delicious Persian chicken stew, you'll begin to create nostalgic memories of your own.


What is Fesenjan?


The dish itself is made up of classic Mediterranean cuisine staples, but like all good foods, has different variations based on family and regional recipes.  Classically, the recipe is made with pomegranate syrup and ground walnuts - more familiarly known as bazha, or walnut sauce - to give it its signature thick texture and tart taste.


The dish has its origins in the Gilan province in Northern Iran where the green land makes for fertile fruit growing and stock raising.  The Gilani people have a strong taste for the tartness of the fruits in the region, most pointedly the pomegranate.  The star ingredients of the dish - pomegranate, walnuts and poultry - have been traced back as staples in the Persian diet all the way to 515 B.C. by means of an unearthed tablet inscription.


Ground Walnut

Today, the dish continues to be enjoyed by millions of Persians all the world over.  In fact, it's considered the most famous of Persian stews and is served during celebrations such as weddings and other special occasions.



How is Fesenjan Prepared?


Depending on how you cook it, the dish can take on either a sweet or sour taste thanks to the versatility of the ingredients.  In most families, the stew is made with poultry - typically chicken - but sometimes duck.  Variations on using poultry include using lamb cut for ghormeh, sliced fish or even no meat at all.  Some prefer to use balls of ground meat, but whatever main protein is used, the dish is almost always served with polo or chelo (white or yellow Persian rice).  


The protein is seared until brown on both sides and then removed from the pan.  A chopped onion is placed in the rendered fat, browned and then the ground walnut and pomegranate syrup are added.  Then, the meat is reintroduced to the pan along with bay leaves, braised, and then spiced to taste with ingredients such as sugar, turmeric, saffron, cardamom and cinnamon.  Finally, a grated red beet is added and the Fesenjan is complete!


Kalamala also carries Ready to Eat Fesenjan 

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Favorite Food Fridays: Ghormeh Sabzi

Considered the national dish of Iran, the tradition and history of Ghormeh Sabzi ("stewed greens') dates back to at least 500 to 1000 years. Served as a main dish in Iranian households for hundreds of years and also as a meal for family members returning after long bouts away from home, the aromatic Persian herb stew is a popular Iranian food not only in Iran, but also in Iraq and Azerbaijan.

Though not the most visually pleasing of dishes, Ghormeh Sabzi makes up its lack of aesthetics with a taste unlike anything you've had before. Consisting of crisp and flavorful ingredients such as cilantro, green onions, leeks, parsley,  shambalileh (dried fenugreek), and sauteed herbs (kale, turnip greens, mustard greens), the cooking process for Iran's national delicacy can be cooked in various ways with various herbs, beans, and vegetables, but every method such as sauteing, stewing, or pressure cooking (though many people prefer a slow cooker for optimum zing), all results in the same, distinct taste.


Traditionally served atop Persian rice, aka: "polow", (made with plain yogurt, Basmati rice, and saffron threads), or "tahdig" (the layer of caramelized, twice-cooked rice that crisps at the bottom of the cooking pot), and often accompanied with lavash bread, this green herb stew is an Iranian food that is deliciously pungent and a dish that will never disappoint your taste buds. And aside from the blend of spices and rice that make up Ghormeh Sabzi, this mixture is also cooked with yellow or red onions, kidney beans or black-eyed peas, beef or lamb seasoned with tumericdried limu-omani (Persian limes) and sometimes potatoes as a substitute for beans--so not only are you tasting an abundance of herbs that will awaken your senses, you're also tasting an assortment of ingredients that compliment this already appealing, untouched Iranian cuisine. 

If you're feeling adventurous and wish to concoct a dish that you've never made before, trying your hand at a pot of Ghormeh Sabzi is a wonderful meal idea for anytime. 


Kalamala also carries ready to eat Ghormeh Sabzi as well as a pre-packaged Ghromeh Sabzi herb mixture

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Favorite Food Fridays: Sabzi Polo

As a cultural food staple of Iran, often served at lunch during Nowruz-- the Persian New Year-- Sabzi Polo (meaning "greens with rice") is a traditional Iranian Cuisine eaten amongst friends and family. Steeped heavily in herbs and spices typical of many Iranian dishes, this fragrant arrangement of Basmati rice and greens enlivens the palette and tastes delicious with meat, fish, and vegetables, but is commonly made with white fish like mahi or halibut.

With various cooking styles that never leave out the polo (similar to rice pilaf), or the fresh chopped herbs such as parsley, cilantro, scallions, fenugreek, coriander, dill, and chives, many veteran (and non-veteran) chefs tend to add ingredients like garlic powder, lemon juice, eggs, saffron liquid, cinnamon, unsalted butter, and salt & pepper for additional taste enhancements that bring out the flavors already existent inside this aromatic dish. The blending of these integral food factors-- key in every serving of Sabzi Polo-- are frequently covered and simmered in a pan over medium heat for more than 30 minutes until the rice is fully cooked. Traditionalists will cook Sabzi Polo until crispy rice layers form on the bottom of the pot; a favored part of this Iranian Cuisine that everyone enjoys eating.  

A Sabzi Polo meal is the epitome of what fresh Spring and Summer flavors are supposed to taste like: light, vivid, crisp, and if you're fortunate enough to live near a Persian fish market, then buying local seafood from a shop that caters to ingredients quintessential to Persian food dishes is a smart decision that will better suit the flavor of your meal. But if you do not, need not worry-- local fish markets in your area are always stocked with the freshest seafood catches available that are just as good as seafood found in Iran. 

If you don't have time to make Sabzi Polo from scratch Kalamala offers dehydrated herbs for Sabzi Polo and a premixed blend of herbs and rice for a quick and health meal.

When it comes to trying out new and exciting foods, even if you don't celebrate Nowruz, you can still enjoy the symbol of life and renewal by making your own version of this Persian favorite. Despite the difficulties that come with any rice dish, capturing the essence of Sabzi Polo on your own time will be worth the effort (and the love) that you put into every plate.  

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Favorite Food Friday: Mast-o Khiar (Cucumber Yogurt)

The tastes and flavors of modern, traditional-style Persian food is uniquely influenced by Iran and its neighboring regions. From Khoresh, to joojeh, to kuku, and even to kebabs and ice cream, the delicacies that arise amongst the various sections of Iran cultivate the eating style of this flavorful food mecca.

With savory recipes rife in exotic ingredients, the extensive list of Persian dishes, appetizers, and desserts that comprise Iranian cook books are filled with aromatic food components. Fresh herbs, apricots, quince, and prunes--often served with vegetables, rice, and Cucumber Yogurtmeat--are seasoned with Persian spices such as cinnamon and saffron. Indeed, the importance of palatable and unique styles of cooking is vital to Persian food. And North of Iran, a favored meze (or appetizer) called Mast-o Khiar continues its own flavor-packed tradition as a popular, chilled Iranian soup that's simple to make and incredibly delicious.

Similar to Southern Spain's gazpacho, this concoction of yogurt and cucumber, though thicker than gazpacho, is almost always served cold. Blended with fresh sprigs of mint, raisins, chopped roasted walnuts, yogurt, and fresh cucumber, Mast-o Khair needs not to be cooked and is the perfect side dish to any meal that enhances the taste of almost anything you serve it with. The crunchy texture of the walnuts blends beautifully with the fragrant creaminess of the yogurt and accompanies rice, bread, meat, and pretty much anything else, exceptionally well. Many traditionalists will add dried rose petals as a way of embellishing upon the senses and also to add a dash of color as you would your very own work of art. Some will mix in other varying ingredients like green onions, basil, tarragon, and chives. Yet, no matter how you make it, it's guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds and possibly change the way in which you view the taste and texture of modern-day soup dishes.

As food is the comfort of the soul, a journey of the senses, and a love that takes many forms, treating yourself to a new dish such as Mast-o Khair is an adventurous decision you're sure to enjoy. And the fact that it's easy to make and quick to whip up, makes serving this customary Persian meze for lunch, dinner, or just a quick snack before the main dish another reason why you should give Mast-o Khair a try today.
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Favorite Food Friday: Zereshk

Sharp with flavor, rich in vitamin C, and high in pectin, the zereshk berry-- the Persian food name for the dried fruit of the Berberis Vulgaris shrub-- is grown all throughout Iran: the largest producer of the zereshk berry, and often used in chicken dishes and rice dishes like Zereshk Polo and Barberry Rice. 

ZereshkCultivated widely in the Iranian province of South Khorasan (especially in Qaen and Birjand), the use for the zereshk berry extends far beyond hot rice and chicken dishes and lends itself to other culinary recipes for jams, fruit rolls, and juices. The vast levels of vitamins and proteins found in the zarashk provide a nutritional element to anything it's cooked with and a flavor that's as tart and acidic as the saffron (also widely cultivated in South Khorasan) that grows along with it. 

These edible red-colored fruits have been used in Iranian and European cooking recipes for many centuries. In Europe, the zereshk berry was employed in similar ways that a citrus peel was used---for flavor and pazzaz-- but today finds itself vacant from many European food dishes. Though in Persian food, these small berries are still a commonly used ingredient for poultry and meat seasonings, and as a main flavoring to Russian candies called "Berberis" that picture the dried fruit on its packages. The tartness of the zereshk berry is also an important food source for many birds and often used in herbal medicines as well. It's active integrants, berberine and isoquinoline alkaloids, are effective in treating the symptoms of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome symptoms. 

But despite its services in other areas outside of the culinary circle, this delicious dried fruit is mainly rendered as a currant in Iranian rice pilaf dishes. 

As the most colorful tidbit of Zereshk Polo, the zereshk berry is the perfect accompaniment to a multitude of different Iranian dishes such as barg kabob (filet mignon), baked fish, lamb kabob, jooje kabob (chicken), and sauteed salmon. And if you want to make your own version of this popular side dish, all you need is Basmati rice, a half-cup of zereshk, saffron water, and butter (optional)--that's it! In moments, you can be cooking your own version of Zereshk Polo, or whatever cuisine you decide to create.



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Turmeric is Zingy, Tasty and Healthy

A piquant, spicy, vegetable studded Indian curry. A fragrant, grilled, yellow hued Thai satay chicken skewer. Slow simmered, lemony North African lamb tangine. All of these culinary classics have in common the spice called turmeric.

Turmeric is an earthy, mustardy, peppery spice that is used in myriad global cuisines. It’s a staple of Indian foods, especially curries and dals. You’ll find it in North African foods, marrying with cumin and other spices to flavor stews and tangines. Turmeric is at home in the Middle East where it adds a pungent note to spiced rice and khoresht.

Ground TurmericThis spice is a rhizome, or root-like plant that grows underground. It can be used fresh, much like its cousin ginger. More frequently it is dried and pounded into powder, which keeps for a longer time than does the fresh form.    

Turmeric is native to the forests of India, where it has long been used as a flavoring, a dye (it makes a vibrant yellow color), and in Ayurvedic medicine. The explorer Marco Polo noted, during his travels to Southeast Asia, that its qualities as both a spice and a textile dye were similar to the very expensive saffron that Europeans used.

Turmeric gives many yellow colored mustards their bright hue. It is sometimes used in place of annatto to color cheeses, butter and margarine, and in prepared chicken broth. As with many spices, the fresh root is more vivid and pungent tasting than the powdered form.

In Indian Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric was used to strengthen and warm the body, improve digestion, and strengthen the liver. Ancient Hawaiians grew the root and used it for the prevention of infections. Today, Western medicine is rediscovering the anti-inflammatory properties of the yellow rhizome. Tests are ongoing, but it appears that it could protect against certain cancers, as it slows down the growth of cancerous cells. It shows promise in helping treat arthritis and liver diseases, as well as diabetes.

Turmeric adds its singular zingy flavor to anything you add it to. Try using the fresh sliced form in Thai soups and curries. Chop it up and add it to potato salad or carrot soup. Many curries call for dried, powdered turmeric. It also pairs especially well with cauliflower. It’s beneficial to your health, tried and true for thousands of years, versatile, and most of all- turmeric is distinctively delicious! 


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