10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (2024)

On an early night in mid-March, I relaxed right into a dinner that has turn into an annual custom.

The meal — celebrating Nowruz, the traditional ceremony of the vernal equinox, rooted in Zoroastrianism and noticed as a very powerful occasion on the Persian calendar — started with sabzi khordan, a platter organized with halved walnuts, sprigs of herbs, radishes and a small rectangle of feta alongside heat barbari, the flatbread that’s equal components crunch and plushness.

Triangles of baked kuku sabzi, one of many consummate Persian egg dishes, popped with their forests of greens. The perfume of dill, parsley and cilantro preceded every chew. Dishes of maast-o-mousir (the yogurt dip with dried wild shallots), shiny pickles, chunky Shirazi salad and herbed rice surrounded the centerpiece, roasted branzino stained with saffron.

It was the third spring I’d savored a standard Nowruz unfold ready by the palms of Cody Ma and Misha Sesar by way of their Azizam undertaking. In 2022 I ate at dwelling after they packed the meals as a takeout feast. Final 12 months Ma and Sesar served the dinner from the kitchen of the just lately closed Konbi in Echo Park.

The third time notably charmed, as a result of the setting was the restaurant that the couple had opened in Silver Lake days earlier than.

What makes Azizam notably particular

From the kofteh Tabrizi — a.k.a. the giant meatball — that mixes the household recipes Ma and Sesar each consulted for his or her model, to the comforts of turmeric-braised hen over rice dotted with fava beans, to using produce that bridges the Californian and Iranian rising seasons, the cooking at Azizam has all the time honored the Persian dwelling repertoire. “Homey” can typically be coded derogation when appraising somebody’s ability in knowledgeable kitchen. That is assuredly the other.

The Azizam expertise is especially distinctive in a metropolis ample with Persian restaurant choices, at which menus have a purposeful sameness targeted round fire-singed kebabs and cloudbanks of seasoned rice. “We’re nonetheless a reasonably younger immigrant neighborhood — round 40 years — and many people have been pressured to relocate in misery,” Naz Deravian, the Los Angeles-based meals author and writer of “Bottom of the Pot,” instructed me in 2019.

Cody Ma and Misha Sesar within the eating room of their Silver Lake restaurant, Azizam

(Ethan Benavidez / For The Instances)

“The vast majority of the inhabitants got here to flee or to arrange a greater life,” Deravian mentioned. “They began companies to become profitable. Restaurant house owners designed their menus for common enchantment.” She added {that a} sure hom*ogeneity helps attune expectations. “Everybody could have their very own opinions about how a dish needs to be made, particularly in the event you’re Persian.”

I all however say in this week’s review that Azizam, in its transition from pop-up, has immediately turn into my favourite Persian restaurant in Los Angeles.

Additionally, as Deravian references, Southern California has the most important Iranian inhabitants outdoors Iran. Community estimates depend 400,000 to 620,000 Iranian American residents all through the area, together with 138,000 individuals of Iranian heritage who make Los Angeles their dwelling. Unquestionably there are culinary depths. I’ve a few go-to kebab homes, and I’m all the time searching (and taking recommendations) for less-seen specialties that illuminate the huge elements of Persian delicacies. Listed here are some favorites.

10 of Invoice’s favourite Persian dishes throughout Los Angeles

Herb-filled kelaneh from Kouzeh Bakery

Late final decade, pastry chef Sahar Shomali embarked on a personal project: making barbari that tasted just like the chewy-crackery model she ate with meals rising up in Tehran. Her preliminary quest led her to analysis regional bread types throughout Iran. Her pop-up bakery Kouzeh turned Shomali’s full-time focus: Her lineup contains 16 or so candy and savory flatbreads, stuffed breads and pastries. She units up at Melrose Place Farmers Market on Sunday mornings, Beverly Hills Market & Deli on Fridays and, with discover and a small charge, delivers on different days throughout the metro space. Browse her online store for what most appeals to you. I all the time come again to kelaneh, a round variation beloved within the mountainous western Kurdistan province that’s rolled so skinny it’s translucent. Uncooked herbs usually comprise the filling, however Shomali prefers sautéing a mixture of scallions, garlic, cilantro and parsley earlier than layering them into the dough. kouzehbakery.com

10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (1)

Iranian breads from Kouzeh, Sahar Shomali’s cottage bakery.

(Invoice Addison / Los Angeles Instances)

Tehran Plate Particular at Style of Tehran

Among the many kebab homes that line the streets of Westwood, I favor tiny Style of Tehran. Chef and proprietor Saghar Fanisalek’s mixture of dishes — marinated meats ringed in flames and served with rice, yogurt and eggplant dips as tart as they’re wealthy — emerge from her kitchen cooked with surgical finesse. An excellent quantity of grated onion sharpens the meat koobideh, which is expertly formed in undulating patterns on the skewer; the hen kebab has deeply absorbed its lemony marinade. The Tehran Plate Particular bundles these with an ever-pleasing filet mignon kebab for a satisfying trio of flavors and textures. It simply feeds two. Bonus suggestion: Among the many brief checklist of stews that rotates via the week, the standout is Fanisalek’s silky fesenjoon, compellingly taut in its contrasts of pomegranate molasses and walnuts. 1915 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 470-0022, tasteoftehran.com

Lunchtime tahchin at Shamshiri Grill

Among the many bigger, older-guard Westwood kebab homes, I gravitate to Shamshiri Grill, the place cooks have a tendency skewers over flames behind a glassed-in grill. The menu sprawls, as does the eating room, so I wish to zero in on the a number of specials out there just a few days per week. The most effective of them: tahchin (additionally generally spelled tachin), a savory rice cake stained with saffron, blended with yogurt and egg, layered with hen or lamb, baked and topped with crimson barberries. It’s out there on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to three:30 p.m., In its piercing perfume and frank richness, tahchin doesn’t want rather more than a lemony Shirazi salad alongside to make a considerable lunch. 1712 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 474-1410, shamshiri.com

10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (2)

Lunch is the time for hen tahchin at Shamshiri Grill in Westwood.

(Christina Home / Los Angeles Instances)

Beef tongue sandwich at Attari Sandwich Store

The sandwich store based by Parvin Sadaghiani is greater than a Westwood mainstay. It’s a marker of neighborhood. He opened the store initially as a comfort retailer in 1978. Tehrangeles, as the encircling stretch of Westwood has lengthy been nicknamed, began to take shape in the 1960s; it was cemented by the newcomers who fled Iran in response to the nation’s scarring 1979 revolution. The block on which Attari resides acquired an official designation as “Persian Sq.” by Los Angeles in 2010, an acknowledgment of how deep the native Iranian American roots are entrenched.

Accept lunch within the restaurant’s courtyard, a nostalgic retreat for some Iranian Individuals with its balconied buildings and wrought-iron fence, for sandwiches made in additional than a dozen variations. Amongst them: eggy hen salad, fried potato cutlet, hen kebab and Persian chilly cuts. Beef tongue is a longtime specialty, the meat simmered in saffron and different aromatics, sliced skinny and paired with extra-vinegary pickles for bracing distinction. 1388 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 441-5488, attarisandwiches.com

Khaleh pacheh at Vanak

Kaleh pacheh — a scrumptious, bolstering soup that includes diverse cuts from a lamb’s head, and infrequently the trotters, historically served for breakfast in Iran — might be discovered at a number of Persian eating places all through the San Fernando Valley. Vanak in Reseda is the one I like to recommend. Include a gaggle to sort out the platter of meltingly tender meat, delicate in its fragrance of garlic and candy spices, that arrives with a separate bowl of broth and sides of lemon and onion. Customise to your style, and compose ultimate bites cradled in shards of sangak (crackling, handsomely pocked flatbread). The menu additionally features a typical array of kebabs and sandwiches, however I’m right here most for a morning meal, close to the hour when the restaurant opens on weekends at 9 a.m. 6740 Reseda Blvd. East, Reseda, (818) 342-4956, facebook.com/vanakrestaurantandbakery

Ab-goosht at Nersses Vanak

The marquee dish at this Iranian Armenian restaurant in Glendale begins with a query, usually from co-owners Robert Abediyan or Romik Abediyan: “Do you wish to mash the ab-goosht, or would you want us to do it?” The tomato-laced lamb and chickpea stew additionally might be known as dizi, named for the normal vessel wherein to serve the meal. There may be ritual: Begin by draining the stew’s broth right into a bowl, after which mixing in torn items of accompanying flatbread. Then, with a masher made to suit the dimensions of the dizi, smash the lamb and beans right into a texture someplace between coarse and clean. There’s nobody appropriate consistency, however the course of and the flavors are uniform of their pleasure. They won’t all the time have it, however ask the house owners for a facet of seer torshi — small entire heads of pickled garlic, a specialty of coastal Gilan province in northern Iran. Its depth will cleave straight via the stew’s heartiness. 6524 San Fernando Highway, Glendale, (818) 550-7800, nersses.com

10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (3)

Romik Abediyan, co-owner of Nersses Vanak in Glendale, is photographed with ab-goosht (also referred to as dizi), proven within the mashed stage.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Instances)

Khoresht at Azizam

This checklist, I’m conscious, has a variety of meaty dishes, befitting the strengths of Persian eating places all through the metro space. A part of what separates Azizam’s concise menu is the seasonality of its khoresht, a reputation for a broad class of simmered meats and greens or fruits, designed to stream with the seasons, that may transcend the fundamental Western notion of “stew.” Cookbook writer Andy Baraghani once beautifully summarized the approach to them for me. “There are stews made with cardoons and with apples or quinces within the fall, and with peaches within the late summer season. The house-cooked dishes have much more variation to them than most restaurant dishes; some stews will likely be made sweeter or extra bitter, or richer and fattier, or lighter and leaner. There’s an excessive amount of room for error for many eating places to follow these subtleties. It takes time to prep a stew fabricated from recent artichokes and tons of recent herbs. Recent bitter cherries, a Persian favourite when in season, have to be pitted. In fact there are brief cuts, however the labor of those dishes tends to not work within the restaurant medium.”

In Azizam’s pop-up kind, I’ve had a minted celery khoresht that Ma and Sesar served with both saffron-marinated hen or fried artichokes, hen braised in candy spices with butternut squash and plums, and a variation of fesenjoon with a dense, virtually fudgy sauce heady with pomegranate. The opening menu has centered a simple vegetarian khoresht of eggplant and break up peas cooked down with tomato. However I’m coaching my Instagram algorithm to maintain me knowledgeable: I’ll be mad if, like just lately, I miss of-the-moment specials like a current apricot khoresht paired with the pot roast-y goodness of lamb’s neck meat. 2943 Sundown Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 928-2286, azizamla.com

White Moustache yogurt at Eataly

Homa Dashtaki, who grew up in Southern California after she immigrated together with her household from Tehran, based my favourite yogurt model in America in 2011.I’ve written earlier than about my love of White Moustache yogurt — and about “Yogurt & Whey,” Dashtaki’s cookbook filled with heartfelt tales revealed final 12 months. Eataly in Century Metropolis stays the one place to purchase her Persian-style merchandise regionally. Attempt the bitter cherry taste to grasp my obsession.

10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (4)

Jars of White Moustache yogurt, made regionally solely at Eataly in Century Metropolis.

(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Instances)

Orange blossom ice cream at Saffron & Rose

That is one other Westwood staple — founder Haji Ali Kashani-Rafye arrived in America in 1974 — that has maintained its requirements for many years. I’ve all the time revered how the store teams its flavors, by fruit (bitter cherry, date and pomegranate, and a refreshing cucumber will get lumped in right here), floral (jasmine, lavender and seasonal rose flavors that fluctuate between potent and delicate) and chocolate and nutty (inexperienced pistachio, the ever-present cookies and cream). Saffron-pistachio or faloodeh, threaded with skinny noodles and scented extravagantly with rose water, arguably hew most carefully to Iranian custom. I’m a fan of the orange blossom variation: When you wander via flowering orange bushes you always remember the enveloping scent. A couple of bites of this ice cream revives my reminiscences. 1387 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 477-5533, saffronroseicecream.com

Saffron kolompeh from Zozo Baking

Practically a decade in the past Fariba Nafissi, who had been an government at Ikea in Burbank, started on-line gross sales of a candy specialty she’d grown up loving in Kerman, a metropolis in southeast Iran on the sting of the Lut desert the place dates are a serious native crop. The sweet is called kolompeh, a mushy, golden cookie crammed with dates, nuts and spices; bakers use particular stamps to create geometric patterns within the dough. Nafissi’s early efforts discovered such a quick viewers that she established Zozo Baking, which operates out of an area in Simi Valley City Middle. Her on-line web site contains different delicately crafted cookies, muffins and candies from conventional recipes, however nothing makes me as completely satisfied like her kolompeh. A field makes an outstanding present. 1555 Simi City Middle Method, (818) 900-6644, zozobaking.com

10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (5)

Fariba Nafissi demonstrates making the marzipan sweet toot at her studio, Zozo Baking. She first earned her repute as a baker promoting the Persian cookies known as kolompeh.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Instances)

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10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (6)
10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies (2024)


10 of L.A.’s best Persian dishes, from kebabs to spiced cookies? ›

1. Ghormeh Sabzi. An unequivocal jewel in the crown of Persian cuisine, Ghormeh Sabzi is a fragrant stew that's deeply rooted in Iranian culinary tradition. Believed to have been a staple for several hundred years, it is widely celebrated as one of the most prominent dishes served across Iran.

What is the most famous Persian dish? ›

1. Ghormeh Sabzi. An unequivocal jewel in the crown of Persian cuisine, Ghormeh Sabzi is a fragrant stew that's deeply rooted in Iranian culinary tradition. Believed to have been a staple for several hundred years, it is widely celebrated as one of the most prominent dishes served across Iran.

Is a Persian diet healthy? ›

Iranian cuisine places a strong emphasis on using fresh and natural ingredients to prepare healthy food. Staples like rice, legumes, herbs, and vegetables form the foundation of Persian dishes that are nutritious foods.

What are the flavors of Persian food? ›

Characteristic Iranian spices and flavourings such as saffron, cardamom, and dried lime and other sources of sour flavoring, cinnamon, turmeric and parsley are mixed and used in various dishes.

What is the king of Persian food? ›

The undisputed King of Persian stews is Ghormeh Sabzi, with the Queen being Fesenjan, a pomegranate and walnut chicken stew. The crown jewel of this dish is its unparalleled depth of flavor.

Why do Persians eat yogurt? ›

Indeed, yogurt is not commonly paired with sweet foods at all. Instead, yogurt is deployed as a souring agent to cut fatty foods because it is believed that its acidic properties “help flush the fat out of your system.”

What kind of meat do Persians eat? ›

Iranian or Persian Cuisine

Includes the foods, cooking methods and food traditions of Iranians. Typical Iranian main dishes are combinations of rice with meat (such as lamb, chicken and beef), vegetables (such as onions and various herbs) and nuts.

Do Persians drink tea or coffee? ›

In Persian culture tea is so widely consumed that it is generally the first thing offered to a guest. Tea is the drink of choice in Iran; it is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner and throughout the day. Tea found its way to Iran from India in the 18th century and soon became its national drink.

What is the purple spice in Persian food? ›

Sumac's tart flavor comes from high amounts of malic acid. The fruits (drupes) of Rhus coriaria are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat.

What is the red seasoning in Persian food? ›

Tangy, smoky, earthy, and slightly sour, sumac is an essential spice in Middle Eastern cooking. With its deep red hue and fruity, citrusy flavor, sumac spice is the perfect way to add acidity and color to your meals!

What is traditional Persian food? ›

Typical Iranian lunch and dinners will be a well-balanced mix of meat, beans, vegetables, herbs, dairy, nuts, and fruits served with rice or bread. The most common animal proteins are poultry, beef, lamb, and fish.

What are the Persians most famous for? ›

The Persians are known for their intricately inlaid metalwork as well as for their legacy of extraordinary architecture. Finely decorated pre-Islamic structures still stand in several ancient cities, as do spectacular mosques and shrines from the Muslim era.

What was the Persian Empire staple food? ›

Herby rice loaded with vegetables and lamb, leavened and unleavened bread flavored with milk, sugar, or herbs, as well as hearty stews brimming with vegetables and goat were staples in the average Persian citizen's diet.

What is the most popular Persian stew? ›

Considered one of Iran's culturally significant dishes, Ghormeh Sabzi is a rich beef stew with a unique and complex flavor profile, which results from slow-cooking fresh herbs and dried limes with beef and red kidney beans. Quite simply you will fall in love with this dish, as it's sour, savory, decadent and delicious.

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