Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saskatoon's Persian Store

Mulberries, Pomegranate Sauce, Dried Lemons, Kashk and Doogh

From the outside, it looks like an old-fashioned corner convenience store. But step inside, and you quickly realize that you’ve discovered a Middle Eastern treasure trove. The Persian Store at 223 – 25th Street West is operated by Mahyar Behnami, who has been in Saskatoon for two years.

The store serves an Iranian/Persian community of approximately 500 people, but it’s an opportunity for all of us to try new things.

Mrs. Behnami kindly gave me a tour of the store and explained how the different dishes and ingredients would be served in Iran.

Canned Goods
There is a large assortment of ready-made, canned dishes. (The stews are always served over rice that is dry, not sticky.)

Ghormeh sabzi is often considered the Iranian national dish. It contains herbs, dried lemon, onion and red beans – you can add your own meat.

The herbs usually include parsley, leeks/green onions, cilantro, spinach and fenugreek, and the store also sells packages of the dried herb mix.

Ash is a thick soup or dip. It contains lots of herbs, noodles and beans. Mrs. Behnami recommended serving it with kashk. Kashk is a sour dairy product, similar to whey or sour cream. It’s usually available as either a liquid or a powder.

There are a couple of eggplant dips that are served with lavash bread, fried onions and kashk. Serving them with a fried egg on top is also recommended.

Fessenjan contains walnuts, pomegranate paste, spices and sugar. Just add chicken and serve it over rice.

Dried Fruit & Pickles
There are lots of pickles, many of them preserved in salt water. Mrs. Behnami explained that Persian people really like sour food, such as the sour plums that are sold as candy.

There are lots of unusual dried fruits, such as mulberries, zereshk (barberries), big golden raisins, plump apricots, peaches and figs.

Pistachios originally came from Iran. There are also melon and pumpkin seeds and ready-to-eat chickpeas (usually eaten with raisins).

I'm really looking forward to using the dried lemons.

Jams include quince, bergamot, orange blossom and fig.

In the cooler, you’ll find halvah and Bulgarian white sheep’s cheese, doogh drinks (yogurt, salt, water), and homemade cheese spreads with yogurt, shallots and mint.

See For Yourself 
I could go on and on listing all the fascinating products that are available at the Persian Store. But I won’t because I want you to go and find out for yourselves.

Have fun – and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Mrs. Behnami was so welcoming and helpful.

P.S. I’ve linked to recipes on various food blogs so that the cooks in the crowd can try their hand at making some of the dishes from scratch.


Anonymous said...

how interesting is that- never really had persian food on my radar till i tried some here in edmonton not long ago....
simply delish!
have fun cooking with those fabulous ingredients
su :)

Penny McKinlay said...

Thanks, Su. Isn't it interesting how each culture combines flavours and ingredients in slightly different ways?