6 Iranian Recipes to Celebrate Nowruz (Persian New Year!)
Happy Persian New Year!
Nowruz (sometimes spelled Noruz or Norooz) is an ancient celebration of the spring equinox that goes back further than modern religion. It has roots in pagan rituals and Zorastrianism, but it's not a religious holiday. Rather, it's a nature holiday.
Nowruz is all about welcoming the sun back into the northern hemisphere.
My father-in-law is from Iran, so every March he and my mother-in-law celebrate this holiday with a huge party and invite all their friends.
One of the most beautiful things about Nowruz (besides ALL THE FOODS) is the symbolism. Every year, my parents-in-law set up their haft-seen, which is a table arrangement displaying seven items that start with the letter "s." Haft-seen means "the seven S's."
The Seven Symbols of the Haft-Seen
- Sabzeh (Rebirth): sprouts! This is a pot with wheat germ or lentil sprouts growing in it.
- Samanu (Affluence): a sweet pudding
- Senjed (Love): dried Persian olives
- Seer (Health): garlic
- Seeb (Beauty): apple
- Sumac (Sunrise): sumac, which is delicious and bright red (i.e. the color of the sunrise)
- Serkeh (Patience/Old Age): vinegar
There are some other things you might add to your table, if you want to get extra credit.
- Sekkeh (Wealth): coin
- Mahi (Life): a live goldfish
- Sham (Enlightenment): candle
- Ayeeneh (Creation): a mirror to reflect the creation of the world
- Sonbol (Spring): hyacinth flowers or bulbs
- Divan by Hafez (Wisdom): a book of poetry
- Tokhmemorgh (Fertility): brightly dyed eggs (just like Easter eggs)
In addition to the haft-seen, there are some other really fun traditions that go along with Nowruz. Similar to Chinese New Year traditions, elder family members give out envelopes of cash to the youths. There's some serious spring cleaning involved — the Farsi term literally means, "shaking the house." And Nowruz is celebrated at the exact moment that the days start getting longer, down to the second.
And we eat... a lot. And drink a lot of tea. In case you want to join in the eating portion of Nowruz, I rounded up a few Iranian recipes to try.
1. Kuku Sabzi
This is the Persian version of a frittata. As you can tell by the color, it's absolutely packed with herbs and greens (the distinctive one being fenugreek leaves). You've probably never had an omelet this healthy before. We actually don't eat this at our family's Nowruz dinner, but I've been wanting to make one!
See recipe on Bon Appetit.
Fish is an integral part of Nowruz feasts. Ours is usually an enormous piece of baked salmon or trout with fresh herbs, but this tamarind version is bound to be amazing too. Tamarind is such an under-appreciated flavor in the U.S., but it's phenomenal with seafood. I used it in this Goan Fish Curry back in the day.
P.S. Saveur Magazine and I have the same tablecloth! Proof below.
See recipe on Saveur.
This bright, one-pot stew is the best way to eat beans and greens. My father-in-law likes to make it with venison from his hunting trips, but beef, lamb and chicken all work. Or you could leave out the meat entirely for a veggie dish. The secret ingredient? Dried Persian limes, which you can buy on Amazon or in your local Middle Eastern market.
See recipe on Tasting Table.
Again with the rice, I know. I just want to give you options. This dish is a riff on the traditional sabzi polo, which is an herb-packed rice that's often served with fish at Nowruz. It looks so beautiful I just want to dive in right now. There better be some tahdig on the bottom of that pan.
See recipe on Bon Appetit.
Remember up above how I was like, "Saveur Magazine and I have the same tablecloth!?" Yeah, well, we do have the same tablecloth (it's from Iran) and I even took a picture of it once! (And forgive my 2015 photography/styling... I had no idea what I was doing back then. But at least I knew how to cook some delicious things.) Tah Chin is what you do with all your Nowruz leftovers — pile them up together (you can use any meat), add yogurt and bake until the outside gets tahdig-level crispy.
See recipe on Worthy Pause.