Monday, October 03, 2005

Persian Harvest Festival

The Salt household was invited to Mehregan last weekend as guests of Network of Iranian-American Professionals of Orange County. I interviewed Dr. Hosseini, the President of NIPOC, for a Persian foodstuffs story filed with the OC Weekly. His organization puts on a large cultural festival that draws over 20,000 Iranian-Americans from across the country to the Orange County Fairgrounds. Sadly, the OC Weekly story didn't run before this weekend, so we weren't able to plug the festival as I'd hoped.

Grilled tomatoes

Beef koobideh

Chicken koobideh

About 20 food vendors lined sides selling mostly Persian foods, although roasted corn on the cob and Pizza Hut were there. Local restaurants and catering outfits grilled kebabs of ground meats called koobideh, or pieces of marinated chicken breast called barg. For the same reason that a Fourth of July cookout wouldn't be complete without burgers and dogs, kebabs are the quintessential cookout food found from Turkey to Mongolia. Even with other food options, a cookout's not the same without smoky, sensual, satisfying sticks of charry meat.

Ash-e reshteh, garnished with mint oil

I was hoping for more variety among the vendors' menus, but everyone had similar offerings: a plate of kebabs, plain rice, a grilled tomato, and the noodle soup called ash-e reshteh. A few different kinds of polos would have been nice: the rice pilafs flavored with nuts, fruit, and herbs. Or my favorite stewed meat dish called fessenjan flavored with ground walnuts and pomegranate. But as someone who's cooked professionallly, I understand that long cooked stews don't work well for impatient festival crowds that want to eat right now. Kebabs cook up in minutes and keep hungry crowds happy.

One vendor sold Persian donuts, some sweet, some savory. Picture a round oily donut filled with a pleasing, sweet, eggy custard. Another was shaped long, like a fat cruller, but stuffed with potato chunks flavored with dill and mint. Two other varities were made, but we were pretty full at that point. It kills me that I didn't take photos or notes on what they're called. Please leave a comment if you know.

What better way to end the meal than at Akbar Mashti's booth, aka Mashti Malone's Ice Cream? One of Los Angeles' best ice cream makers brought select flavors including faludeh and my favorite, orange blossom with pistachio nuts. We're looking forward to next year's event!


Blogger elmomonster said...

Now that looks amazing! I'm new to koobideh, and it sure is tasty. The one at Wholesome Choice is the only one that I've tried thus far. Any recs for other places in O.C. worth trying?

BTW, are you planning to share your Pupusería San Sivar write up with the Chowhounds? I think they'd love to read your post.

10/04/2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Champurrado said...


Nice blog. Must have been a food weekend all over. We enjoyed Chile Festival in Brooklyn ourselves. Right now I'm looking for fresh masa in Brooklyn so I can recreate tamales from my forgotten East LA youth.

10/04/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Professor Salt said...

elmo -

Koobideh is perfect outdoor festival food, in the same way that burgers and hotdogs are perfect at a 4th of July cookout: simple, smoky, seductive charry meat. Even if you have fancier alternatives, it wouldn't be a proper cookout without them, y'know?

When I go to a nice sit-down Persian restaurant I generally explore the more complex dishes rather than the kebab type of dishes. So I don't really have a recommendation for you, sorry.

Champurrado - thanks for stopping by and saying hi. Regarding your masa, have you asked on the Outer Boroughs board on Someone there will know.

10/04/2005 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger BoLA said...

Dear Professor:
Just wanted to say that your pictures are just incredible! I love the grilled tomatoes! YUM! Too bad I'm not all that familiar with the OC. Gotta get down there one of these days. :)

10/05/2005 10:52:00 PM  
Anonymous mrsjoujou said...

For good kabobs try Darya restaurant at south coast plaza. Their quality of meat is much better than caspian.

10/07/2005 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous sg said...

That fire-roasted tomato pic is lovely. It all looks scrumptious.

Been enjoying your blog for a while now - thanks as always for sharing.

10/07/2005 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger MEalCentric said...

Prof- another great write up. Hope you put plenty of "sumac" (dark brown gritty seasoning with sour taste) on those roasted tomatoes. wouldnt be the same without it.

10/18/2005 08:03:00 PM  

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