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Persian Cultural Report: Pastries and Desserts

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Persian desserts can be divided into several categories and sub-categories. There are drinkable and non-drinkable desserts. There are wet and dry desserts. Finally, there are frozen and non-frozen desserts.

The drinkable desserts may be severed with a meal or bought at local kiosks. One popular kind is doogh, which is a combination of carbonated water, yogurt, and mint.  This drink is so popular that in 2007, Iran produced 14,400,000 tons of it. Doogh is not something new as it has been around since ancient Persia. In fact, a newspaper article from 1886 described it as, “a capital thirst quencher in hot weather.”

(Personally, I think it tastes awful)

Other drinks are frozen such as Sharbat (though originally an Arabic word, it is where English gets both “Sherbert” and “Syrup”), Havij Bastani (a carrot ice-cream float), and other fruit-juice drinks. Sharbats are very old and have been described in texts dating from the 12th century. 

Some additional frozen desserts are Bastani-e Za’farani and Faludeh.  Bastani-e Za’farani is ice-cream flavored with rosewater and saffron. Faludeh is a sorbet made with cornstarch, rosewater, and ground pistachios. The Faludeh from Shiraz is especially well-known.  

The non-drinkable and non-frozen desserts can be divided into two categories: wet and dry. Wet desserts are those that draw inspiration from French desserts. For example, some Iranian desserts use heavy whole-milk cream and glazed-fruit toppings. You can also find plenty of Iranian desserts prepared in the French dessert style, such as tarts, éclairs, and cakes. Many desserts use common ingredients found in Iranian cuisine like rosewater, pistachios, and saffron.

The dry desserts are native to Iran, having developed their own preparation techniques without outside-influence. These include cookies, deep-fried dough, and Noghl. Cookies can be made from chickpea flour or rice. Cookies may have raisins, walnuts, figs, saffron as a filling. The final type of dessert may be a variety of nuts. One special kind is called Noghl, or sugar-coated almonds. These are traditionally served at weddings or with tea.

One dessert that seems to straddle the wet and dry categories is deep-fried dough. Deep-fried dough is usually soaked with sugar, honey and cinnamon, though some can be served dry like a plain doughnut. The concept of deep-frying dough was brought to Iran by travelers either from Arabia or India.

Learn more about Persian with some of my Farsi Resources here.