In Australia, we often know biryani as an Indian or Pakistani dish, a rice bowl with chicken or meat with aromatic unique combination of spices and flavours. In Isfahan, however, you can experience a totally new version of biryani!
Biryani in Persian means to grill or fry. Biryani (as a dish, pronounced ber-you-nee) is a traditional Isfahani food, only made and served in Isfahan. People often have it on a Friday at lunch time, since it is considered to be heavy meal (not waist line friendly!) and consumed at times outside of normal working hours. It is often served with doogh, a savoury yogurt based drink flavoured with dried mint and salt but you can often order Coke as well.
The entrée for biryani is a type of soup, with pieces of bread soaked in meat stock freshly made at the restaurant. Similar to another traditional Iranian food called abgousht, this bowl of soup is called tilit and is topped with mint and kashk, a thick savoury diary product commonly used in many traditional Iranian foods.
The main dish, biryani, is made of two types of meat and wrapped in flatbread. Toppings are cinnamon, zereshk (barberries), walnuts and crushed almonds to add some crunch to the dish.
Iranians, similar to Indians, like to have little plates filled with lemon wedges, parsley, mint and sometimes raw onion and bowls of yogurt and pickles at the table. As you have figured out by now, Isfahani Biryani is nothing similar to the Indian one, there is no trace of rice and is lighter in chilli and spice but we leave it to you to discover in person!
There are a number of places in Isfahan with a reputation to make the best biriyani. SurfIran often takes its guests to the oldest biryani place in Isfahan, located at the heart of the bazaar as a family business established in 1906; or another one near the historical site of Si-o-Se Pol (33 Bridges) with a view to the Zayande river.