Monday, July 25, 2011

Sassanian / Sasanian Cuisine

A Sassanian era (224–652 CE) book titled Husrav i Kavātān u Rźtak ź/Khusrav ut Retak (Khusrav and Page) by Khusrau i Kavatan and translated by Jamshedji Maneckji Unvala as King Husrav and His Boy (P. Geuthner, Paris, 1921) is reported to contain references to Sassanian cuisine.

In reviews of the text, Husrav, that is Khosrow II (also Khosro/Khusrau/Chosroes. c 580/591-628 CE), also called Parviz or Ever Victorious, interviews a young man of noble birth named Vasphur whose family had become impoverished and who petitioned the king for employment in the king’s service. King Khosrow poses thirteen questions to Vasphur to test his nobility. The questions were about the prospective page’s knowledge about living a life of luxury.

Khosrow questions Vasphur about the best and most desirable fowls, meats, broths, fruits, grains, different kinds of wines, music, flowers, women and horses. In one of his questions, Khosrow asks Vashpur which dish was the finest and most savoury. Vasphur describes a preparation made from the organ meats of a two-month-old lamb fed on its mother's milk and also cow's milk, rubbed with olive juice, marinated with herbs, cooked in a beef broth and drizzled with whey (kashk).

[Today in Yazd, Kerman, and Azerbaijan, a similar preparation called boz-ghormeh is served. Boz-ghormeh is chunks of goat's meat or mutton, sautéed in butter and then simmered in beef broth to which saffron, salt and pepper (turmeric, cinnamon, tarragon and mint are optional) have been added. The meat is served topped with fried chopped onions and drizzled with yoghurt or whey (kashk).]

The fifth question is “Which pastry are the finest and the best?” Vasphur answers: “In summer: the almond-pastry, and the walnut-pastry, and the walnut-bun, and the bun made with fat, and the finger-pastry..., that they fry in walnut-butter. But with the fruit-jelly that is squeezed out and filtered from the juice of the apple and the quince, no pastry can stand the contest!” Today in Iran, a marmalade made from quince juice is called mojassameh-ye beh. In jams and preserves the peel of balang, a large citrus fruit, is still popular in Fars and Gilan provinces. Cucumber and walnut jams and pickles are popular in Qazvin.

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