The extravagance of King Khosro and Ridag شاه خسرو و ریدگ قبادی

ریدگی پرورده ایران از دودمان قبادی بنام واسپور دست بسینه پیش شاهنشاه ایستاده است

“A young man by the name of Vaspour from the Qobadi ancestry, brought up in Iran, stands before the King of Kings arms folded over his chest”[1]

Thus starts the article which covers all aspects of the King’s indulgence. The King here is Khosro II, Khosro Parviz 591-628 AD. The page, an adolescent from an old noble family has completed his education in all the subjects required of a young aristocrat and presents himself to the King hoping for a position in the court. The king asks him 13 questions about various aspects of a life of luxury to which he provides satisfactory answers.  We are told no one knew as much as this young man of the ways of preparing delicious tasting food. The king tests his knowledge by asking him questions about the best of many things including different delicacies, perfumes, wines, etc. For our purposes, I will concentrate on the contents of their conversation concerning cooking and edibles.

In answer to Khosro’s question about the best, the healthiest and the most pleasing meal Ridag says;    “it is the meal you eat when you are hungry and in good health, when your soul is free of fear.  However, the flesh of a two month old kid fed by its mother and the milk of a cow is particularly delicious. Its skin should be cleaned (the fur removed) and it is roasted and covered with ābkameh,[2] or the breast of a fat cow cooked in Espedbag[3] and eaten with sugar and tabarzad[4].”

As for the best dish cooked with birds, Ridag says it is a duck raised on hemp seed, kāmah[5] and olive oil. The special kind of kāmah here is “sikin” which is a kind of dough made with three parts flour, wheat or barley, and one part water. The bird is made to run the day before to tire it out. Then it is slaughtered the day after and plucked clean. It is hung by a leg for one day and by the neck the next. It is then roasted in an oven. The best part is the back and even better is the bit above the tail.

The king then asks Ridag about the best cold meat dish. He answers it is that of a fatty female onager on heat, fed on barley and alfalfa, whose flesh is marinated in sour milk (yogurt) and rubbed with oil and seasoning then cooked. [6]

What is the best and most fresh x̄amiz, the king asks. Ridag says; “x̄amis made with rabbit is the most delicate, but the one made with the flesh of a spayed female doe is without a rival” and the king agrees.

Khosro’s fifth question is about the most delicious pastry and desert. Ridag’s answer is a confirmation of the discerning tastes and sophisticated preferences of the Sassanid palate, a series of rich and sweet pastries for the winter and lighter, cooler deserts some even including crushed ice or snow, for the summer. For the winter there is lowzineh,[لوزینه[7 ; jowzineh, جوزینه; jows āfrusheh, [8]جوزآفروشه; charb āfrusheh, چرب آفروشه and charb angosht[9], چرب انگشت “made with the fat of a gazelle or a goat and fried in walnut oil”.

For the summer, Ridag suggests lowzineh, لوزینه; shaftineh, [10]شفتینه; barfineh tabarzad[11], تبرزد برفینه . However, he says the best is palurvaykeh, پالوروایکه or paludeh, پالوده made with apple juice and silvery apple.[12]

The King’s sixth question is about the most delicious jam. Ridag says the jam made with khar bādrang, خار بادرنگ, a variety of citrus fruit, quince, ginger, halileh (the fruit of a tropical tree the size of apricots, possibly chibula), fresh green walnuts, or vahman sepeed, وهمن سپید (the root of a bushy herb, century) are all very good. But none can surpass that made with Chinese ginger or halileh.

How about the tastiest amuse-bouche, the King asks? Ridag replies; “Coconut when eaten with sugar, in India they call it anārgil and in Persian it is gōz i hindūg (Indian nut), and the Hyrcanian pistachio nut, when it is roasted in the oven, and tender fresh chickpeas, when eaten with ābkāmag (and) dates from Hira stuffed with walnuts, fresh pistachio nuts and Armenian peach and chestnuts with solid sugar.”[13] But, he says, nothing rivals hemp seed from Shahr Zuri toasted in the fat of a male goat in being delicious to eat, aromatic and beneficial for the stomach and digestion.

Ridag continues with his list of the best in other aspects of the luxurious life of the court but his references to food end here.

< Cooking methods | Other Sassanid Dishes and Conclusion >


[1] Husruv u Kwatik Ritak
شاه خسرو و ریدک قبادی
(خسرو قبادان و ریدک)
برگردان متن پهلوی وتصحیح و مقابله
از ایرج ملکی
مجله موسیقی از انتشارات هنرهای زیبای کشور
پرتال جامع علوم انسانی
www.ensani.ir

[2] Maleki’s footnots says it is sourdough bread dipped in vinegar and eaten as a sour condiment. Prof. Christensen has rendered it as the essence of olives.

[3] Espedbag is a stew like dish of the Sassanid period. There are many ways of spelling and pronouncing the name and almost as many explanations for how it is cooked. The name means white stew and It is one of the recipes on www.aashpaz.com site. Prof Christensen says it is cooked with spinach, flour and vinegar.

[4] Sugar crystal

[5] Maleki provides several explanations but prefers the following: it is the condiment made by adding fresh اسپند to milk and letting it clot and sour the milk.

[6] According to Maleki, the meat is cooked afterwards in salted water. Then it is taken out and left in a place to drain all the stock from it. Meanwhile, a quantity of pulses is cooked in vinegar. Once ready, it is sieved to separate the vinegar to which the meat is added and left for a period.

[7] Farhang Mo’in says it is a kind of halva made by mixing sugar or honey with ground almonds and rosewater. The mixture is sandwiched between two layers of very thin bread. It is pressed down to a uniform level and cut into small pieces. These are put in a shallow tray and a mixture of sugar syrup and rose water is poured over them. It is decorated with crushed pistachios before serving. Jowzineh is the same made with ground walnuts instead of almonds.

[8] Āfrusheh, according to Farhang Mo’in, is a kind of halva made with flour, honey and some kind of fat. Another definition from Dehkhoda Online Dictionary refers to a custard like combination of egg yolk sugar and milk heated over moderate fire to which pieces of bread are added and allowed to cool down and solidify. Maleki’s own footnote says it is a delicacy made with roasted cheese.

[9] Farhang Mo’in describes it as a desert made with bread, fat and sweetening agent.

[10] I have not found any other description but the meagre one included in Maleki’s footnote which just says it is a sweet desert made with fruit syrup.

[11] From ‘barf, برف’ meaning snow suggests an ice cold desert such as ice cream. There is also an old fashioned granite like desert of snow or powdered ice with a dash of fruit syrup which might be a similar desert to barfineh.  In the text the serving suggestion is barfineh with crystalised sugar, coriander and rosewater.

[12] Paludeh is a favourite which has survived to the present time. It is a refreshing combination of crushed ice, fruit, fruit syrup and rosewater or other aromatic plant extracts. A more contemporary version has a kind of vermicelli made from arrow root (dissolved in water and extruded through a sieve into a bowlful of ice and water) which adds substance and crunchy texture.

[13] Davoud Monchi-Zadeh, “Xusrov i Kavatan ut Retak, Pahlavi test, Transcription, Transliteration and Translation”, In Monumentum Georg Morgenstierne, Vol 2, Acta Iranica 22 (Leiden, Brill, 1982) 50-52