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What is Persian cuisine? Bringing Persian cuisine to Minneapolis

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

Caspian Bistro and Gourmet Marketplace has been a pillar of the Minneapolis community since 1986. Serving up traditional Persian food has allowed a community of people to find a home at one of the only restaurants in the area cooking Iranian food from scratch. Caspian Bistro is owned by a family of four brothers, all eager to create a place in the Twin Cities that their community could gather and share the delicious Persian dishes that they grew up eating. Many of the regular customers have Persian roots, but Caspian has expanded to so much more, and brought Persian cuisine to a whole new group of people.

This brings up the question – what exactly is Persian cuisine?

The most traditional Iranian dish is kabab koubideh, or skewers of ground meat, oftentimes a mixture of beef and lamb. At Caspian Bistro, the kababs are served with basmati rice, a grilled tomato, and a side salad. This traditional dish is a labor of love, and most people do not take the time at home to make it. In Iran, there are restaurants all over the place that serve this type of dish. In Minneapolis, Caspian Bistro is the only one.

Another traditional dish is tahdig. Tahdig means “bottom of the pot,” and is the crispy crust on a pot of rice. Samin Nosrat, an American food TV personality with Persian roots and author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, describes tahdig as “the crispy crust by which every Iranian maman’s culinary prowess is measured.”

In Iran, tea is offered almost everywhere, and is considered a sign of hospitality. According to the book Joon: Persian Cooking Made Simple, making tea is an art in Iran. The color, smell, and flavor of the tea are all important. The color is a light red, not a dark brown, and therefore is served in small glass cups instead of a china cup. The smell and temperature are also important - it needs to be steeped for the perfect amount of time and give off a wonderful smell. Tea is a part of most occasions in Iranian cuisine, but also is often drank at the end of a meal with a small sweet. According to Persian Food Tours, tea is often served from a samovar, which is a "self-boiler" that is used to keep water hot for long periods of time. A traditional Persian tea is usually made with black tea, cardamom pods, and rose petals, and served with sugar cubes.

Persian food is still less known than other cuisines. Najmieh Batmanglij is an Iranian-American chef and cookbook author who has brought Persian cooking into the homes of Americans everywhere. The Washington Post named her as “the grand dame of Iranian cooking.” She has written multiple cookbooks on Persian cuisine, in an attempt to make the food more known to the average American, while also educating people on Iranian customs and traditions. One of her most popular cookbooks is Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies.” The book came out in 1986, coincidentally the same year that Caspian Bistro and Gourmet Marketplace opened its doors in Minneapolis.

Caspian Bistro’s main goal is to bring people together over food while introducing new foods to the people of the Twin Cities. Persian cuisine is rooted in community and spreading the love of this delicious cuisine is the most important goal for Caspian.



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