Persian cuisine varies across Sydney, but two things will remain the same: there’s always a lot of rice and meat, and dessert. The following places, covered in Broadsheet’s “Local Knowledge” series, are well worth a visit.
Morteza Hemmati has been sharing Persian home cooking with Auburn for almost 12 years. The restaurant itself isn’t much to look at, but you’re here for the food.
While there’s debate around what Iran’s national dish is, Hemmati says it’s chelow kabab, grilled-meat skewers with herbed rice. His passion for it explains why there are so many variations on the menu at Darband. Hemmati favours the northern version where the meat and tomatoes are chargrilled and served with fluffy saffron rice. Choose between chicken, lamb, lamb mince and lamb backstrap, which are all marinated in lemon juice, minced onion or both. Traditionally it’s served with doogh, a savoury, tangy yoghurt drink. At Darband it’s sometimes fizzy, sometimes flat, but always brims with shredded mint.
Pull back the vines and enter what looks like a retro Italian hotel. Everything at Farsi – down to the salt and pepper shakers – has been imported from a hotel in Iran.
Owner Masoumi Nejad served Westernised dishes back in Iran, but here it’s strictly traditional. Before you get into the heavy meat try the dips. Reminiscent of baba ganoush, the kashke bademjan is a grilled-eggplant spread topped with crispy garlic, mint leaves and yoghurt whey. Another eggplant-based dip, aykra, is golden-orange in colour from blending the onion and tomato. Most of the dishes to follow include a mound of fluffy rice, a couple of charred tomatoes, a roasted sour chilli and a long strip of meat. Joje, chicken rubbed with lemon and minced onion, is also a crowd favourite.
On weekends, a different menu surfaces spotlighting regional specials such as fesenjān, a chicken stew that’s slow cooked in pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts. For dessert: freshly churned saffron-and-pistachio ice-cream.
Cyrus the Great
Weekends here are about dizi, a dish that has been enjoyed by Persians for around 2000 years. The slow-cooked lamb stew with white beans, chickpeas, tomatoes and potatoes comes out in a stone pot. It’s served with a mountain of flat bread, pickled vegetables, fresh herbs and what appears to be a metal plunger. This dish can be enjoyed two different ways. The first: tear the bread into small pieces and place them in the bowl with liquid drained from the stew. The second: make a dip by mashing the remaining stew ingredients with the “metal plunger.” Vegetables and herbs go wherever you prefer. Another traditional meal is ghormeh sabzi, which divides Persians because of its intense tang from the blackened sun-dried limes (limoo amani). It’s a curry-like stew with a thick blend of Persian herbs.
This Persian sweet shop in Merrylands has been keeping locals happy with its biscuits, delicate cream puffs and sponge cakes for years. It stands apart because it uses slightly different ingredients to what’s found in typical Persian desserts.
There are two different types of Persian sweets here, shirini tar (French-influenced pastries with fruity, creamy centres) and shirini skoshk (traditional Persian dry pastries).