Tag Archives: Iranian cuisine

Iranian New Year Tradition (Haft-sin)

Name: Haft-sin (هفت‌سین)

Main Piece

Me: So, I know people in Iran celebrate their New Year next month.

Informant: Yeah, Nowruz. It’s in March, but I’m not sure what day it’s on because it’s always different I think.

Me: Is there anything you guys do on that day? Or any particular dish that is traditional for New Years?

Informant: Well, yeah there are foods that are usually on the table but that’s not… I guess it’s not as important as Haft-sin (written: هفت‌سین). I don’t… have you heard of that?

Me: No, never.

Informant: Ok ok. So, there’s a small table, maybe off to the corner, and we put seven foods that start with the letter “s” on it. It doesn’t need to be cooked food or prepared in anyway because we don’t have to eat it. This is supposed to keep evil spirits away and bring good luck for the rest of the year.

Me: Oh, so you don’t have to eat these things, you just have to have them there.

Informant: Yeah, yeah. It’s stuff like vinegar and spices that you can’t really just eat like that, so…

Me: Can you tell me what your family puts on the table?

Informant: Yeah, we put garlic (سیر –  pronounced “seer”). We put sabzeh (سبزی), which is some type of green herb. I’m not sure how you say it in English, sorry!

Me: Oh that’s ok!

Informant: Yeah, then we put vinegar, like I said. It’s called serkeh (سرکه). We also put this pudding called samanu (سمنو). I can’t translate that either, and I’m not even sure what went in it, but it was kind of sweet. And then my mom sprinkled sumac on the table, too. You know sumac.

Me: Yeah.

Informant: Yeah, we pronounce it somakh (سماق). And then we put apples, which is seeb (سیب). And olives, which is senjed (سنجد). And then… that’s it I think. And my mom liked to decorate the table with flowers and candles. 

Me: That’s interesting. So, was this the standard? You had to have all seven of these things on that table and decorate it with flowers to have good luck?

Informant: Well, my mom always did it this way because she… she said it was the right way to do it. But pretty much, everyone just decorated it how they wanted to. I don’t think flowers were the standard.

Me: So you just put these on a table in the corner and it brings good luck?

Informant: Yeah, that was the point. I mean, it doesn’t have to be in a corner, I was just saying that. But yeah, it was supposed to keep evil spirits and evil people out of your house that year. I don’t know if it ever worked, but we always did it anyways, so…

Me: Did you personally like this tradition? Do you feel like you would do it in the future if it were left up to you?

Informant: Yeah. Yeah I think I would. Mainly because I want my kids to know the tradition. But I wouldn’t expect it to actually work. I would do it, but not to keep the evil spirits away.

Me: Right, right. So just to keep the tradition alive.

Informant: Mhmm.


My informant was born and raised in Iran, and she remembers this tradition being performed every year. She explains that her mother is the one that kept the tradition alive in the household.


Haft-sin is performed every Iranian New Year on March 22. According to my informant, this tradition is more widely performed in Iran than it is in the United States, where my informant currently resides.

My Thoughts 

I had never heard of this before. We don’t have anything like this in my culture, and I have never been exposed to this in America. This is an interesting tradition, and I wondered what the significance was of putting each of these foods on the table. For more information on this, visit the first citation at the bottom of the page. In summation of the information on the website, “Sabzeh is a symbol of rebirth and renewal of nature. Samanu represents fertility and the sweetness of life. Senjed is for love and affection. Serkeh… symbolizes patience and age. Seeb…is a symbol of health and beauty. Seer…is for good health and Somaq…symbolizes the sunrise and the spice of life.”

I found it interesting that seven is the lucky number in Iran, much like it is here in America. Upon further research, I found that the number seven held enormous significance in Iranian culture. For more information on the lucky number seven, visit the second citation at the bottom of the page, which is an article from the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.


Bakhtiari, Parisa. “All About Haft-Sin: The 7 ‘S’ of Iranian New Year.” SURFIRAN, 28 Mar. 2021, surfiran.com/all-about-haft-sin-the-7-s-of-iranian-new-year/. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Shahbazi, A. Shapur. “HAFT (seven), the “heptad” & Its Cultural Significance in Iranian History – (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies – CAIS)©.” The of the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)©, www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Culture/haft.htm. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Iranian Baklava

Main description:

AB: “Are there any Iranian foods which have a special meaning to you?”

DB: “No. Haha, jk. Um, special meaning… probably baklava.”

AB: “Awesome! What can you tell me about Iranian Baklava?”

DB: “I’ll tell you how mamanjoun taught me to make it. First, you roll out some phyllo dough on the counter. The filling is pretty simple, you just mix walnuts, sugar, and I also add nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice if I’m feeling spicy. But anyway, you blend your nuts and sugar together, and you should get this really crunchy and sweet kinda filling. Now comes the hard part. You spoon a row of your filling onto a sheet of phyllo and you carefully roll it up. Phyllo is super thin, obviously, so I know mamanjoun dabs water on her fingers to help it stick to them, which can make it easier to work with. That part literally takes forever. But anyways, once you have all your phyllo walnut wraps, you cut them up into sections so you have nice little baklava rolls that fit in your hand. You bake them at, um, I think 350, but mamanjoun just says to watch them until they brown. Oh, and you top with a syrup. You make that just by boiling lemon juice, water, and sugar, and then you drizzle that over the baklava once it’s baked. I’ve made them once with mamanjoun and once by myself. They turned out really well the first time and… okay the second time. But my friends still really liked them.”

AB: “When would you say makes Iranian Baklava special?”

DB: “Listen, I’m not a baklava expert. It’s a hell of a lot better than the baklava they have at most restaurants, I’ll tell you that. Our baklava is crunchy when you bite into it, which I think makes it taste a lot better than baklava that’s just like… stuffed with sweet walnut powder or something. That stuff’s gross.”

AB: “When do you make baklava. Is it for any special occasion?”

DB: “Well, I guess mamanjoun makes it whenever there’s family visiting, really. I kinda think she just likes to show off, but also it’s everybody’s favorite food, so I get it. She’ll also make batches of baklava for us to take home sometimes because it’s so good. When I’ve made it, I made it because it was Thanksgiving and I wanted to bring a dessert while also showing off. It’s really a lot of work, so I don’t think anybody would be making it by themselves.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Why is baklava special to you and your family?”
DB: “Honestly, I’m just really proud I know how to make it. Like, I can’t cook any Iranian food for shit, but I can do baklava, lol. I feel like I worked really hard, and it’s nice to like…be able to share my family with my friends through, like, food.”

Personal interpretation:

Baklava is a common dish throughout Greece and much of the middle-east, so it isn’t  a uniquely Iranian dish. The informant, however, emphasizes a few techniques that make the dish unique, and he sees it as a part of his culture that he can easily share for others to appreciate.

Del o Jigar: Iranian Comfort Food

Context: I asked the informant if he wished to participate in the folklore project fifteen minutes after he had smoked a bowl of marijuana from a bong. He was extremely enthusiastic about participating in the collection project, but wasn’t sure exactly what I meant by “folklore.” I explained to him that it could be a traditional food that his parents make him, or something Iranian that he enjoys eating. His eyes lit up, and he slowly said, “Del o jigar.” I began recording, and asked him to explain what he meant by the term.


WD: What kind of foods do your parents make you? Like, what’s a comfort food that your mom makes?

DO: Actually, my mom hates this, but del-o-jigar. It’ basically cow liver, that’s jigar, and del is, like, ummm,  the heart or intestines of the cow. It’s something. They both taste really, really good.

WD: So, where would you get it? Would your mom make it?

DO: Well for me, its like, you know, that guy with a kind of dirty restaurant. You’re in Tehran, and you’re looking around, like, damn, I’m hungry. So you walk in, you smell the smells of the meat, it smells gamey, like kind of a funky meat. Just like some really cool stuff. Then, they take it off the skewer, a little lime juice, a little greens,  and a piece of bread… then grrrrrrr.

WD: Damn. So is that like, the equivalent of like a New York Slice, in a way?

DO: No, it’s like, street comfort food. It’s more like… it’s more like street tacos. In a weird kind of way. They even sell it here, I have a place I like.

Informant: The informant is a 19 year old, male Iranian-American USC student. He was raised in Los Gatos, California, and attended a private all-boys catholic school in San Jose, California. He has visited Tehran, Iran several times to visit extended family members, and has had this dish many times. He said that it’s better to purchase the food in Iran, but he occasionally buys it in the United States, as well. He informed me that it always reminds him of his heritage to indulge in the food, and when he’s feeling homesick, he’ll grab a bite to eat.

Analysis: Upon researching further, I found that del o jigar is the heart and the liver of the cow, roasted on a skewer and wrapped in taftoon, or flatbread. It is sold as street food in larger Iranian cities, such as Tehran. Historically, in Iran, cattle have been the basis for economic growth and expansion, holding deep significance in the traditional cuisine of the nation. Del o jigar is an extremely popular food to purchase while wandering the city of Tehran. The food is quick to make, relatively inexpensive, and can be made anywhere, making the food a near equivalent to a Los Angeles street taco.