The region that is today Iran has a very long history. Urban settelements have existed in the country since at least 4000 BCE, and of course most people have heard of the Persian empires. The country of Persia, officially changed its name to Iran in 1935 at the direction of then ruler, Reza Shah, but in 1953, Mohammad Reza Shah (the son of Reza Shah) announced that both names, "Iran" and "Persia", were acceptable.
Persian cuisine is known for its subtle and delicate mixtures of spices. You will also find that Persian recipes use many interesting ingredients including apricots, artichokes, eggplant, lemon, lime, oranges, pistachios, spinach, saffron and tarragon.
All Persian meals are traditionally served with tea ("chai"). Tea is in fact drank throughout the day, as well as with breakfast, and before and after both lunch and dinner. You should also look out for the side dishes ("mokhalafat"), containing various accompaniments which are served with Persian meals, as they form an important part of the experience.
Additionally, rice is often eaten with Iranian meals. Although the rice may be prepared in a variety of different ways, the best known is "chelow", in which rice is partially boiled, then drained and finally steamed. This results in a fluffy texture for the rice, with a golden crust at the bottom of the cooking pot.
Popular Persian main dishes include:
* Chelo Kabab – This is probably the most famous of Persian dishes. It is marinated lamb, cooked over a charcoal grill, and served with rice.
* Fesenjan – Fesenjan is a stew made from chicken or duck. It contains walnut and pomegranate, and has a sweet and sour flavor.
* Abgousht – This is vegetable and beef stew.
* Shirin Polo – Shirin Polo is traditionally eaten at Iranian weddings. It is rice with slivered almonds, orange peel and pistachio nuts.
Some mokhalafat side plates may accompany Iranian meals include:
* Naan – Persian unleavened flat bread.
* Panir – A type of cheese that is reminiscent of feta.
* Khiyarshur – Pickles.
* Torshi – Relishes.
* Sabzi – Mixed herbs.