The first time a French family invited me over for dinner, I did not notice the dramatic differences between the dietary habits of Iranians and French people. In fact, I found the decorations so fascinating and was so immersed in French language that I can’t even remember the dishes. Next time I invited them over for an Iranian lunch, I could speak French more fluently. Besides, I had developed more intimate relationships with them over the last couple of months. As a result, I almost felt at home when they were around. Consequently, this time our differences were much easier to notice, especially because they were my guests. Popular Iranian side dishes
Soon enough I realized that people don’t accompany hot meals with cold side dishes, at least in Europe. While cold side dishes are a must in Iranian food culture. In the worst case, Europeans have fast food with water or soda. But in Iran, things are totally different. Genuine Iranian dishes are still popular but we wholeheartedly embrace exotic dishes at the same time. That’s why, soda mostly accompanies fast foods and we eat original Iranian side dishes along with genuine Iranian dishes.
Thus, the side dishes may vary depending on the meal type. Generally, Iranians serve fast food with beverages, non-alcoholic beer, ketchup sauce, mayonnaise sauce, or mustard. While Iranians are used to eat traditional dishes with a variety of side dishes such as yogurt, pickle, lettuce salad, Shirazi salad, leaf vegetables and doogh.
Leaf vegetable is a healthy, traditional side dish in Iran. It consists of any combination of a set of fresh herbs and raw vegetables. Basil, parsley, and radishes are among the most common ones.
Accompaniment of herb vegetables with the main meals is mostly a medical matter. Over the course of history, Iranians got to know about the benefits and vitamins of vegetables. Consequently, they started to consider it as a side dish in their food culture. We eat leaf vegetables with these foods in Iran: Abgoosht, Fesenjān, kebab, bread and feta cheese and finally Gheymeh stew in rare cases.
Yogurt and its varieties
Iranians eat yogurt with the main meals in in a variety of ways. Aside from the fruit yogurt that industrially produced, we serve yogurt in a variety of ways depending on individual’s tastes. Some mix yogurt with cucumber and peppermint. Some serve yogurt with Persian shallot and the rest serve it without any additives. However, chopped grilled eggplant mixed with yogurt is my favorite dish. And this mixture could be served as a meal rather than a side dish. Interestingly, Iranians eat the mixture of yogurt and Persian shallot mostly with Kebab. Thought, they mostly serve mixture of Yogurt and cucumber with Gheymeh, GhormehSabzi, eggplant stew and Lubia Polo (Persian green bean rice).
Since no Persian equivalent has yet been coined for the Latin word “salad”, we believe it’s a borrowed side dish. This salad is one of the most popular side dishes in Iran. Most of Iranians have lettuce salad with their hot food and a tiny number of them have it before or after their meal. We traditionally serve lettuce salad with mayonnaise sauce. Nevertheless, many people serve this salad with fresh lime and olive oil. Lettuce salad ingredients include lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and grated carrots. In some restaurants, however, this side dish may come with some boiled corn, chopped white cabbage as well. People in Iran serve Lettuce salad with fast food, Zereshkpolo with chicken, Baghalipolo with meat, Sabzipolo with fish.
Iranians serve Shirazi salad with most dishes. That is, aside from dishes like Abgoosht, Kale Pache and Kebab. In fact we love eating Shirazi salad with other foods, especially the rice-based ones. This salad is made of chopped cucumber, tomatoes, and raw onion flavored with verjuice and salt. Nevertheless, many people prefer to serve this salad with fresh lime and salt.
Though Iranians know that pickle is a harmful side dish, it is very popular among them. Iranians mostly like dishes that contain vinegar and salt, and pickle is one of these dishes. The popularity of pickle is mainly due to the fact that this side dish is a perfect appetizer. As a result, it gives them a good excuse to spend more time with others at the table. We eat Abgoosht, Dampokhtak, Sargonjeshki, Lubiapolo and Valak polo mostly with pickle, rather than other side dishes.
Doogh is one of the most delicious traditional Persian beverages that Iranians drink alongside their foods. The ingredients of this drink include yogurt, salt, dry mint and water. The industrially produced varieties of this drink however come in a variety of types especially carbonated types. Sometimes, Iranians drink Doogh even with fast food.
Last but not least, although we put the afore-mentioned side dishes on the table at home or in restaurants, a variety of factors including family’s culture, climate, and personal taste may affect people’s choices.
Popular Iranian side dishes