Cooking Methods

sassanian_silver_plateOur most comprehensive source on Sassanid Cuisine, Khosro and his page, Ritag, does not go into the detail of the preparation and cooking of dishes except in cases where reference is made to marinating or roasting. Cooked meat served cold is included in a range of cold dishes called afsordeh, افسرده which did not survive much beyond the time of the dynasty. However, it is possible to claim afsordeh as a predecessor of the present day aspic. Raw meat cut into thin slices and marinated for several days, known as khamiz خمیز, are another delicacy lost along the years since.

Fermentation: A combination of cracked or ground wheat or barley flour, water and often dairy products was left to ferment and become sour. The resulting dough or liquid depending on the quantity of water used was either left to dry and then powdered to take on long trips as a nourishing base or used to marinade meat, thicken stews and soups or made into dough and baked.  This mixture, referred to as pest or past, was also served diluted on its own as an aid to digestion. The dried and powdered version of the mixture could be sour or sweet with the addition of powdered sugar and ground almonds.

Sassanid platePickling and proving: Among the preparations the most common are kāmeh[1] کامه , ābkāmeh[2] آبکامه, fudaj[3] فودج, and sourdough.

Marinating: In order to tenderise meat, it was prepared and rubbed with or marinated using a variety of preparations such as yogurt, kāmeh or ābkāmeh to name a few. It was then roasted or served raw as Khamiz depending on the marinade.

Cooked meat dishes served Cold, afsordehافسرده : These are meat dishes generally cooked or marinated/pickled in vinegar. Some recipes included a combination of hot and cold meats. For this purpose, the story of Khosro and Ridag mentions that the meat was first cooked in salted water. It was then left to drain completely. This was used as the base for a variety of sour or vinegary afsordeh recipes.

Roasting: For cooking the meat, roasting seems to have been a favoured method. What is interesting is that for one of the recipes, a two month old kid is cleaned of its fur but the skin is left on. It is marinated and then roasted as such. Presumably, the tenderness of the young animal’s flesh cooked within the confines of the skin would produce tastier results. Open fire or a kind of oven was used for roasting.

Preparation and presentation of fruit: The best of fruit from the four corners of the empire was sent to the court at its prime. Some were just cleaned and washed before serving. Others such as dates, coconuts and pomegranate were stuffed, sweetened or seeded and served with herbs or spices scattered on top. An impressive array of jams was also made from the fruit which will be mentioned as part of the dialogue between the king and his page.

Deserts: Several kinds of sweets are included in the list of delicious edibles. Most are a mixture of flour, honey, milk or other dairy produce and some kind of oil or fat. The mixture is invariably perfumed, shaped and cooked. Cold deserts such as fruit served with crushed or powdered ice was also on the menu. One such which has survived in spirit if not much else is Paludeh پالوده , faludeh فالوده or faludaj  فالودجin Arabic.

To help us better understand the cuisine of the time, we turn to our main source of information the account of the conversation between Khosro Parviz and his page, Vaspour.

< Diversity of ingredients | The extravagance of King Khosro and Ridag >


[1] Maleki’s footnote compares definitions provided by various dictionaries and concludes that the most credible is the result of ­­mixing milk with wild rue seeds and leaving it to ferment and thicken.

[2] Dehkhoda  Persian dictionary online gives the following definition:
“It is dried wheat or barley bread soaked in water and left in the sun to ferment. Sometime pennyroyal, celery seeds, cinnamon and cloves are added to it.”
Maleki provides a slightly different explanation: Sourdough bread soaked in vinegar and used as a pickle or condiment.

[3] Dehkhoda’s online Persian dictionary: It is the base for ābkameh and other pickles and it is made by making a dough from wheat or barley flour without salt. The dough is wrapped in fig leaves and left in the shade to dry out and become foul smelling.