Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how food is a gateway into understanding and getting to know other cultures. Wouldn’t it be fun if you had country nights to teach your kids about where, say, Iran is on the globe and educate them a bit on the country’s history and current events? Cooking is an amazing form of armchair travel.
There is no Persian food to be had in Hong Kong so my Persian friend Mitra was desperate for a fix… so we decided to host a Persian night where she taught me how to make zereshk polo, which has long been my favorite Perisan dish.
Mitrra marinated the chicken overnight in the following marinade, which really produced such tender and tasty chicken.
-1 small carton of full fat greek yogurt
-1 whole red onion
-lemon juice (I think I juiced 5 lemons, but it’s up to you)
-3 (or more) tablespoons of olive oil (again, just eye ball it)
-1 tablespoon of turmeric
-3.5 teaspoons of saffron (diluted in hot water)
-minced garlic (2 or 3 cloves)
-12 chicken thighs
One appetizer was traditional sabzi: fresh herbs… mint, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, green onions, radish, and walnuts served with feta–we are in love with grilling feta with a nice mix of dried herbs in aluminum foil, so even though it’s not Persian we served it this way. You then take a piece of pita and tuck in herbs, nuts, and the feta for a delicious little sammy.
The second appetizer was fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese and proscuitto–again, not particularly Persian, but I couldn’t help but buy the beautiful figs as they’re quite rare here. You cut the figs in half, spread with cheese and a piece of proscuitto, skewer and grill.
Back to the Zereshk: The only difficult ingredient to find here (and even in the States if you don’t go to a Persian market) are the barberries, but they are the essence of the dish so I special ordered them from Ethnic Foods Co., which also sells saffron–the most important Persian spice, for much cheaper than you’ll find it at your grocery.
Barberries are dirty little fellas–you need to rinse, soak and wash all the dirt and sand off of them. Spend some time picking out all the bad berries and while you’re doing this labor intensive task think about your guests and how thankful you are to be sharing a meal with them.
We used a rice cooker to cook up a bunch of long-grain basmati. We took half of the rice and mixed it well with saffron that was first ground in a mortar and then soaked for 15 minutes in water. Then we mixed the rices together.
Soak some bbq skewers for 30 minutes and then skewer up the marinated chicken and grill.
Next we sauteed a bunch of thinly sliced onions with the barberries in olive oil, but you could also use ghee. Mix up the barberries and onion with the rice and serve!
We paired the Zereshk with a cucumber, tomato, and red onion salad and Mast-o-khiar, which is simply greek yogurt and very thinly sliced cucumbers mixed up. You can also add dried or fresh mint to it.
For dessert because we are in Hong Kong and mangos and papayas abound and I happened to have one of each lying around, I made mango/papaya ice cream for dessert!
I used La Gringa’s recipe and did half mango/half papaya. The Mr. said it was the best ice cream I’ve ever made! I served it with little waffle biscuits and a few mint leaves. Now I’m wondering what country we should “visit” next!