(109) Iran – Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh (Persian Saffron Chicken)

Source: tehrantimes.com

Iran, a country we hear about in the news way too often for negative reason but not in this post! Iran, the second largest country of the middle east, is situated in western Asia bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea. The climate depends on where you reside in the country- major regions include desert (the majority of the country), mountainous, and coastal. Pictured above is western Iran.

My saffron substitute- turmeric!

Iranian cuisine is full of savory spices that is sure to warm you up, especially on a day like today -it’s full on snowstorm mode in Western Maine! Iranians also LOVE their tea! It is custom to drink tea after every meal and at gatherings- typically it will be black tea without milk. Rice is at the heart of many Persian meals accompanied by meat (often lamb or chicken), salad, yogurt, and vegetables. Some of Iran’s largest exports are caviar, saffron, and pistachios; saffron especially being big in their cuisine. Saffron was also apart of today’s dish too, but to cut costs I found a reasonable substitute right at my local grocery store- turmeric root! If you decide to purchase saffron one thing to note is the color of the threads. The quality of saffron can be determined by the color of the threads, the darker color implying a higher quality.

Zereshk polo ba morgh which translates to barberry rice with chicken is the meal I chose to make to represent Iran. This dish is often enjoyed at celebratory events and gatherings. Saffron might seem like the key ingredient, here but the real star is the barberry. I had never heard of barberries and thought this was something to add to my Amazon cart and I’m glad I did. They’re a little smaller than a raisin and have a tart flavor that compliments savory meals. This well rounded meal has multiple components and a lengthy ingredient list, but isn’t too complicated to make. You can find the recipe here!

Preparing this colorful meal was pretty simple and most of the time was the chicken simmer in the pot which only required my attention every 25-30 minutes to make sure nothing was burning or sticking. The salad I cut up in advance, the mint topping coming from dried mint from the garden!

I had a good feeling about this one, the Middle Eastern dishes always seem to knock it out of the park and I was right on the money! The flavors were bold and vibrant, the chicken was very tender, and the berries brought a beautiful burst of tartness that elevated the dish to the next level. This is yet another dish that will be added to our personal collection, bravo Iran! We rated this one 9.75/10!

(45) Turkey – Almodrote

Cappadocia, Turkey. Source: allthatsinteresting.comRoastad

Hey everyone, we are in Turkey today! Turkey is a Middle Eastern country southeast of Europe and west of Asia.It is bordered by three seas- the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. It exports 75% of the world’s hazelnuts and is the birthplace of Santa Claus! Above is a picture of Cappadocia, Turkey a truly unique place of unworldly land formations of rock that can shoot over 100ft into the sky. Many of these house-like formations are known as fairy houses.

Turkish cuisine has Ottoman roots and can vary based on the location. It is thought to be a blend of Balkian, Central Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Armenian, and Mediterranean cooking styles and flavors. Vegetables often dominant their dishes.

This dish is traditionally made with eggplant, however this blog uses a zucchini and summer squash combo. I was happy to find another recipe that has been made throughout several generations knowing it was authentic as well as a “keeper.” This dish is full of cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, and squash mostly and is baked until the top layer has become crispy and golden brown.

One thing to note is that you should squeeze out as much liquid as possible prior to combining the ingredients. I had squeeze mine out several times, but noticed it was a little more liquidy than I was have liked. Nevertheless I had made a little cheesy pie/quiche.

I feel my downfall here was too much liquid from the squash which made the texture all wrong. The flavor of the dish was pretty good but unfortunately it was a little bit on the blander side. If I maybe cooked it longer (glass container may have also affected the cooking time) and/or drained more liquid from the squash I would have been successful. We rated it 6/10. I will strive to repeat this dish sometime in the future or try another Turkish dish, let me know what you think I should try!

(44) Iraq – Masgouf

Iraq’s capital Bagdad. Source Britannica .

Growing up in the United States, discussions of Iraq were often about war and conflict. Despite the media’s portrayal, we know this country is full of amazing, kind people and has a very rich history.

Credit- Wikipedia

Iraq has two major rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. Seated between these rivers is part of the region known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is considered by many as the birthplace of modern civilization and is home to the world’s earliest known forms of writing, mathematics, and the wheel.

Masgouf is Iraq’s national dish. This dish typically involves a large carp fish covered in curry and a well-spiced tomato-based sauce which is traditionally cooked over an open fire. The recipe we used is here. In this recipe, she also recommends baking and finishing with the broil setting which is what I did.

Rub the fish with curry and salt and then begin to prepare the sauce.

Prepare your ingredients and begin by sautéing onion and garlic briefly first.

Add the chopped tomato, parsley, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, water, salt, curry, and cayenne pepper mixing well. Occasionally stir the sauce while it simmers for 5 minutes. Since I didn’t prepare this over an open fire, I added some liquid smoke to bring some of that element into the dish.

Cover the fish with your sauce and top that with slices of tomato and onion. Bake this in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375-degrees. Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-5 minutes to add a char to the dish.

Finally, serve with your favorite rice! The sauce for this dish was delicious and the addition of liquid smoke helped give this dish the authentic flavor. We felt however the dish was missing something.. Final score: 7.5/10. This sauce would pair well with any meat!

(27) Azerbaijan – Khoyagusht

Welcome to our 11th week of traveling by taste bud! Today we travel to Azerbaijan “the land of fire.” I had never heard of this country until last week! This region of the Middle East has it all- the dramatic mountains, mud volcanos, and beautiful beaches on the Caspian Sea. It has bustling cities and quaint villages up in the clouds. It is even home to a city that is completely supported by stilts!


Khinaliq, Azerbaijan the highest village in the Caucasus Mountains. Source: Flickr – Feng Wei

Today I will be making a dish that pertains to a special group of individuals that live high up in the mountains in a town called Gyrmyzy Gasaba. “The Mountain Jews” are the world’s last surviving pre-Holocaust Jewish village also known as shtetl and see themselves as a separate Jewish ethnic group.

This khoyagusht recipe is one a blogger was able to write down when visiting this community. She was fortunate enough to experience authentic Mountain Jew cooking in action! Khoyagusht is a dish that is made up of chestnuts, meat, and egg. Other elements such as onions and potatoes might be added. Spices such as turmeric and paprika give a flavorful kick to this omelet dish.

I was skeptical at first when I tried a chestnut for the first time and was thrown off by its texture, but alas the finished meal proved me wrong. The chestnuts brought a nice sweetness to the dish which was well paired with the spices and onion. The chicken and its’ broth brought a familiarity to the plate. All in all it was a pleasant surprise.

We rated this dish 6.25/10 making it just above average ranking. These dishes have been becoming more of a challenge to rate as they are starting to blur together! Next we will go to Europe to visit Bulgaria!

(17) Oman – Omani Shuwa

Greetings from Oman! This old country (one of the oldest inhabited countries in the world dating back over 106,000 years) is home to some of the best ship builders of the world. Oman is also known as one of the more elite Arabian horse breeders. Port Sultan Qaboos (pictured above) is the largest port of Muscat and is the main connection between India and the Far East to Oman.

Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat. Source: Getty Images The National News

To celebrate one of Oman’s delicacies I made omani shuwa which is a slow cooked lamb dish. As stated in a previous post we are not huge lamb eaters, but I was able to substitute short ribs for lamb shanks. Traditionally, this special occasion meal takes days to prepare. The first day it marinates in Omani spices, then it is wrapped in palm or banana leaves and is places in a sand oven underground slowly cooking for 1-2 days! I was able to follow this recipe for a modified version.

I ended up letting the meat marinade two days and cut slashes in the meat as recommended to allow the flavor to absorb into the meat. Then I slow cooked the ribs in my crockpot for 3ish hours with 1 cup of water and a little extra lime juice. Above is the end result served aside a bed of spinach, turnip fries with middle eastern inspired seasoning, and red peppers for garnish. The meat was so delicious and we loved the punchiness of the lime with the dynamic garlic and ginger duo. Personally we felt the meat choice was a little too fatty, but we would definitely use this marinade and slow cooking method for other cuts of beef or even chicken. We rated this dish 7/10!

Next week we will arrive in Romania for a totally new dish unlike anything I’ve ever had before! Talk to you soon!