Diversity of ingredients

khorus-330Meats: the range of domesticated and wild animals slaughtered or hunted is far greater than what we are used to today. In addition to sheep, cows and goats, camel and in particular neutered young camel, wild pig, horse, onager, gazelle, calf, buffalo and other game were on the menu depending on the season and the region. As for birds, hens, cocks, chicken, peacocks, geese, ducks, guinea fowl and a large range of wild birds were cooked and eaten.

I have not seen many references to fish in the texts I have consulted but no doubt the fish caught in rivers and lakes would have featured in the cuisine of the Sassanids.

Grains such as wheat, barley, millet; pulses and rice also feature strongly in Sassanid food. Interestingly, rice is served hot or cold cooked separately as an accompaniment to stews or incorporated in thick soups.

Fruit from the four corners of the empire are named in the story of Khosro and the Page and one would expect the same to be true of the vegetables although not many are mentioned. Nuts and in particular, almonds and walnuts seem to be the main ingredients of sweets and breads.

Dairy products: milk, fresh or sour, does appear as a marinade or as a cooking liquid medium replacing water. Yogurt was well known and used as an ingredient in cooking as well  although Europeans were not familiar  with it until several centuries later. Cheese, referred to as Persian cheese in Arabic sources, was also present on the tables of the Sassanids. There is a story[1] related from Prophet Mohammad when followers were not sure which food was permitted in their newly born religion. One disciple asks whether it is permitted to eat Persian cheese. The Prophet is reported as saying;”Take a knife it to, invoke the name of God and eat. ”

Although spices are referred to generically, they are not mentioned by name.

Eggs of various birds were presumably eaten and the yolk of an egg is a delicacy mentioned by the page, Ridag, in reply to one of King Khosro’s questions.

< Historical context | Cooking methods >


[1] Food, Purity and Pollution: Zoroastrian Views on the Eating Habits of Others
Touraj Daryaee
Iranian Studies, Vol 45, Issue 2, 2012,
Special Issue: Pre-Islamic Iranian Literary Heritage Pp 220 – 249