Embracing the Delightful Side Dishes of Iranian Cuisine: Pickles, Yogurt with Cucumber, and Salad Shirazi

When exploring the vibrant world of Iranian cuisine, one cannot overlook the importance of side dishes that accompany and enhance the flavors of main courses. Iranian meals are often accompanied by a delightful trio of side dishes: pickles (Torshi), yogurt with cucumber (including dried mint), and Salad Shirazi (a refreshing combination of tomatoes, cucumber, onion, lemon juice, salt, and pepper). These sides not only provide a burst of flavor but also contribute to the overall harmony and balance of the dining experience.

Pickles (Torshi)

Let’s start with pickles, known as “Torshi” in Persian. These tangy and zesty delights are an essential part of Iranian cuisine. Torshi refers to a variety of pickled vegetables and fruits that are marinated in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and sometimes spices. Iranians have mastered the art of pickling, resulting in a diverse range of flavors and textures. Popular vegetables used in Torshi include carrots, cucumbers, garlic, cauliflower, and eggplant. Fruits such as sour cherries, plums, and unripe grapes are also pickled to create unique sweet and tangy tastes. Torshi adds a delightful punch to any meal and serves as a palate cleanser between bites.

Yogurt with cucumber (Mast-O-Khiar)

Yogurt with cucumber, often accompanied by dried mint, is another beloved side dish in Iranian cuisine. Yogurt, known as “Mast,” is a creamy and tangy dairy product that is a staple in Iranian households. It is not only enjoyed on its own but also used as a versatile ingredient in various dishes. When combined with refreshing cucumber slices and a sprinkle of dried mint, it creates a cooling and flavorful accompaniment. This side dish provides a contrasting element to the richness and spiciness of other Iranian dishes. It is commonly served alongside grilled meats, rice dishes, or as a refreshing dip for bread.

Salad Shirazi

Salad Shirazi, named after the city of Shiraz in Iran, is a vibrant and refreshing side dish that captures the essence of Iranian cuisine. This simple yet flavorful salad is made by combining finely chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. It is seasoned with salt, pepper, and often garnished with fresh herbs like parsley or mint. Salad Shirazi adds a burst of freshness and crunch to the meal, complementing the richness of main dishes. It is a popular side dish during warm summer months and is frequently served alongside grilled meats, rice, or kebabs.

In Iranian culture, meals are often a shared experience, where the enjoyment of food brings people together. The side dishes of pickles, yogurt with cucumber, and Salad Shirazi exemplify this communal aspect of Iranian dining. They encourage the sharing of flavors and the exploration of various taste combinations. So, the next time you savor Iranian cuisine, be sure to relish the tangy pickles, creamy yogurt with cucumber, and refreshing Salad Shirazi, as they enhance the culinary journey and provide a delightful accompaniment to the main course.