Recipe – Tehran, Iran

Recipe for “Sholeh Zard”

1 cup rice

2 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups sugar

2 tablespoons rosewater

4-5 tablespoons oil

Pinch of saffron

Cook rice very well in water.  Add the sugar and mix.  Boil oil separately.  Add in rice.  Add the saffron (for color) and rosewater.

Recipe for “Halvah”

1 cup flour

5 tablespoons oil

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons rosewater

Pinch of saffron

In a pan, mix the flour until it cooks.  Add the oil and mix so it changes to a dark brown color.  In another pan, add the water and sugar and boil.  In the same pan, add the saffron and rosewater and keep it boiling.  Next, add in the flour slowly and keep stirring off the fire.

Both “sholeh zard” and “halvah” are traditional dessert dishes of Iran.  They both originated from Iran and the recipes are passed down generations.  My mom says she learned the recipes from her friend’s mother in Iran when she was young.  My mother cooks a lot of Persian meals, almost every night, and she sometimes makes “sholeh zard” and “halvah” for us.

“Sholeh zard” is a typical Persian dessert and it can be made any time.  However, on special occasions, such as the Persian New Year, Christmas, or just any celebratory event, it is seen a lot more at parties and other people’s homes.  My mom makes “sholeh zard” only about once every couple of months because it has a lot of sugar and too much of it is fattening.  Since she does not make it that often, when she does make it, there has to be a special reason why she is making it, but in general “sholeh zard” can be made anytime.  “Sholeh zard,” when it is done cooking, looks like yellow rice pudding and it can be eaten hot right after it is made, or cold if it is put in the refrigerator.

“Halvah” is another traditional dessert from Iran.  However, this dish is most often made when somebody dies or to celebrate the memory or anniversary of someone’s death.  “Halvah,” like “sholeh zard,” is very popular in Iran and everybody knows how to make it, or has eaten it at least.  In different countries, the recipe for “halvah” varies; in some countries it is more seen with nuts and chocolate, whereas other countries it is creamier.  The “halvah” my mom makes is about half an inch thick and a dark brown color.  It is very sweet so it is hard to eat a lot at once.  It is most often eaten with tea since it is a dessert dish.  It is hard to describe what the “halvah” my mom makes tastes like, but it is a soft, creamy texture like peanut butter but it is hard and thick at the same time.

Both “halvah” and “sholeh zard” are traditional dishes prepared in Iran, and now with the growing population of Persians in America, there are Persian supermarkets that offer those dishes.  My mom does not have the recipes for the desserts written down; after making them so many times, she has the recipes memorized.