SearchUtah restaurants prepare to celebrate Persian New Year | The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah restaurants prepare to celebrate Persian New Year | The Salt Lake Tribune...
sltrib.com 09/03/2016 Cuisine

Keywords:#Caspian, #Caspian_Sea, #Chaharshanbe_Soori, #Children, #Cuisine, #Griffin, #Iran, #Nasrin, #Norooz, #Nowruz, #Pars_Market, #People, #Persian, #Sltrib.com, #University, #Zaferan, #Zaferan_Cafe, #Zoroastrian

By KATHY STEPHENSON | The Salt Lake Tribune connect
First Published Mar 08 2016 11:15AM
(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) The traditional meal for Persian New Year is Sabzi polo. It incluces herbed rice, grilled or fried fish and kookoo, an herb and egg custard.

* * * Persian New Year » Pars Market and Zaferan Cafe prepare for celebrations where food items represent notions such as beauty, love and patience.
During ancient times, Persian kings put aside their cultural and religious differences and invited neighbors from around the empire to mark the arrival of spring.
This Persian New Year celebration, called Nowruz, continues today in what is now modern-day Iran, as well as cities around the globe, including Salt Lake City.
The festivities of Nowruz — which means new day— include fire, food and symbolism.
"It's about leaving evil behind and starting fresh and new," said Nasrin Mohammadi, co-owner with her husband, Behrouz, of Salt Lake City's Pars Market and Cuisine, which will celebrate on March 15 and 19. (See box for details.)
On the Tuesday evening before Nowruz officially begins, a fire festival or chaharshanbe soori is held, said Mohammadi, who came to Utah from Iran more than three decades ago to attend the University of Utah.
People build small fires, a symbol of "leaving the darkness and winter behind," she said. The outdoor festival includes music, dancing and hot beverages and has its roots in the Zoroastrian religious tradition.
Later in the evening, as the countdown to the new year progresses, the celebration moves inside, where families and friends enjoy a traditional meal of sabzi polo ba mahi — long-grain basmati rice cooked with cilantro, parsley, leeks and other fresh herbs. It is served with fish. Salmon is the most popular choice, said Mohammadi, but it varies by region and family. Fried white fish is popular near the Caspian Sea, while areas farther from the ocean will serve river fish or smoked fish, whatever is available.
For those who may not have access to fish, there is kookoo — herbs and eggs baked into a vegetable custard.
Along with the meal, a colorful ceremonial table, called haft-siin, is set. Placed upon it is usually a holy book, flowers, a gold fish, a mirror, candles and painted eggs, all symbols of rebirth. "Every family table looks a little different," said Mohammadi, who said her family adds a tray of rice and coins in hopes of bringing good fortune and wealth in the new year.
While some of the items are different, every table always includes seven traditional foods, each starting with the letter "s" in Persian.
Each food represents something different: apple (sib) for beauty, garlic (sir) for health, dried lotus tree fruit (senjed) for love, sumac berries (somaq) for sunrise, vinegar (serkeh) for patience, sweet pudding (samanu) for wealth and sprouted wheat barley (sabzeh) for rebirth.
While Nowruz — sometimes spelled Norooz or Norouz — officially starts on the Wednesday before the spring equinox (March 16 this year), preparations begin weeks in advance, as people clean their house and buy new clothing, said Bijan Jahromi, whose Persian family owns and operates Zaferan Cafe in Cottonwood Heights.
"It's an exciting time of the year," he said.
On New Year's Day, it also is a tradition to go visit the oldest members of the family or community, with the family enjoying fruit, nuts and Persian cookies and sweets. Children often get money from their elders.
Jahromi, who was born and raised in Utah, said in Iran, the New Year continues for another 12 days; on the last day, "it is considered a good omen to be outside in nature." Iranians in Utah often gather at Sugar House Park on that day.
For the second year, Zaferan Cafe will host a Chaharshanbe Soori on Tuesday, March 15, complete with fires in the parking lot and traditional foods inside the restaurant.
While there are sure to be many of Persian descent who attend, customers of all nationalities are invited, Jahromi said. "We would like other people to experience this celebration, too."
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