From the earliest times Persians have been known for their hospitality, whether that of the tribesman offering rest and refreshment to a weary traveler, or that of the urbane city dweller offering a sumptuous repast to his guests.
Tradition requires that guests or visitors be served only the finest food available, and always in the most bountiful manner possible. Accounts of early travelers to Iran indicate that the dishes served have not changed appreciably over the centuries.
Persia’s geography, history and cultural influences have shaped the diversity of ingredients and the methods of cooking in one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures. Persia – or Iran – has been subjected to repeated invasions, but it has maintained its culture, language and identity throughout the centuries.
The vast size of the country encompasses a wide array of local dialects, lifestyles, regional traditions and customs, not to mention an extraordinary variety of landscapes and climates.
All these are reflected in the country’s food. In the north, around the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, the landscape is lush and green and as a result of plentiful rainfall there is great diversity of fruit, vegetables and herbs.
The northern regional cuisine features simple, fresh notes of taste and aroma, and there is a preference for sweet and sour flavours, as opposed to spicy. Further south, in the provinces near the Persian Gulf, where the climate is drier, the season for fresh ingredients is much shorter and the variety available is not as great.
There is also a long tradition of trade through the sea routes with spice-rich countries like India. The resulting cuisine is more complex in taste than in the north of the country, with long notes of spices, tamarind and chillies.