Persian is one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures and cuisines. Aqueducts built around 3,000 years ago are still used to grow produce in the arid interior of modern-day Iran, and 2,000-year-old buildings, used to keep ice frozen through summer for drinks and desserts, are still standing. While there’s elements in common with the cooking of surrounding Middle Eastern countries, Persian food is distinctive, influenced by travellers of the silk road and other ancient trade routes; the lands the vast Persian empire encompassed; and the wealth of local produce, including saffron, barberries, pistachio and rose. Here are five places in Sydney to get a Persian food and culture fix.
Restaurant Narin, Northmead
Tucked into an unassuming strip of suburban shops, this is my Iranian friend, Parya’s, favourite Persian restaurant, and I can see why. The kebabs are juicy with premium meat, the stews (khoresh) are simmered long and slow for maximum flavour, servings are generous and service is friendly (the only Persian way). Braised lamb neck is a specialty and I love their roasted eggplant dip (kashke bademjan).
Shopping Top Ryde
There’s a mini-Persian bazaar at 32 Church Street in Top Ryde where Bahar Persian Food is flanked by Persepolis Butchery and 32 BakeHouse. Bahar has a great range of groceries, bulk nuts and legumes plus a freezer full of pre-chopped herbs to speed up making soups and stews. Persepolis prepares finely minced lamb with onions, perfect for making kebabs, and the bake house sells a range of Persian breads and sweets. On the north side, visit Habib and Simin Hayeri at Super Sahel in Willoughby for a great range of produce and friendly service and advice.
Bakery Sangak Bread & Restaurant, Guildford
Iran is a country of bread lovers, and every village seems to have its own unique version, but sangak, with its distinctive ripples and moreish chewy texture, is found country-wide. Beside their Guildford restaurant, Mehdi Honarmand and his family run Sydney’s only authentic sangak bakery – and both are excellent. Try their sangak wrapped around kebabs and take some home to pop in the freezer. Their traditional weekend breakfast menu attracts Persians from all over Sydney.
‘Little Persia’ Merrylands
Merrylands, in Sydney’s west, has become our own Little Persia. Wandering along the main street here feels more like Tehran than Sydney, with an exciting range of Persian butchers, bakers, ice cream shops, sweet makers, casual eateries and stores with fresh produce and homewares. There’s Afghani, Iranian and other influences from the region too, which make this a wonderful spot to immerse yourself in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Culture Persian Film Festival
In a highly censored society such as Iran’s, film is one of the few avenues for personal expression and, if done carefully, even political statement. Thus the Persian film industry has evolved into one of the country’s most important cultural institutions. Australia’s Persian Film Festival – celebrated in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide in April – provides a fascinating insight into contemporary Persian culture.
Prefer to shop online? Visit Saffron & More for a great range of Persian saffron, dried fruit and edible flowers, nuts and sweet treats.
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