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Iranian national cuisine is very diverse and nutritious. A rice-based diet is commonly used by all people throughout the country. The current work aimed at documenting the ethnic and traditional rice-based foods prepared and consumed in Iran.
The data were collected by individually interviewing people from 15 cities in five districts of Iran (north, south, west, east, and central parts), as well as searching literature and scientific sources.
A list of 100 ethnic and traditional rice-based foods of Iranian cuisine is presented in three categories: main meals, soups/pottages, and sweets/desserts.
The main ingredient of traditional and ethnic Iranian foods is rice. Iranian people develop many ways to create and consume rice-based foods.
ethnic food ; Iran ; rice
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is the second most important staple food crop in the word after wheat  and  . It is a main source of carbohydrate and provides proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals  . Generally, rice provides the bulk of daily calories for more than half the people throughout the world  and  . Rice production by the top 50 countries has been increased from 586 million metric tons (MMT) to about 738 MMT from 2003 to 2013  . The largest producer of rice in the world is China with a production of about 205 MMT  . The other principal rice producers are Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines  and  .
Iran is also a producer of rice in Asia with a production of 2.4 MMT  . The food consumption pattern of people in Iran shows that Iranians consume an average of 100 g of rice per day  . Rice is the second most popular and favorite food in Iran after bread. The most famous and common rice-based food products in Iran are chelow kebab , chelow gheimeh , ghormeh sabzi , and joojeh kebab . Each of these foods can be served as a main rice dish with side dishes. Rice can be also used in a vast range of Iranian rice-based food products such as soups, stews, sweets, and desserts  . Furthermore, it can be utilized as an ingredient of different kinds of ethnic and traditional foods in Iran.
Today, there is an increased interest in ethnic food throughout the world. By definition, ethnic food can be considered as a countrys cuisine that is accepted by people outside of that country. For example, Iranian food is introduced as ethnic food outside of Iran  . The world is focusing more on traditional and ethnic food because many people from different countries tend to eat not only for survival, but also for pleasure  and  .
Adding ethnic foods to the consumption pattern of people around the word is necessary for a pleasant workplace, healthy life, as well as having a favorite leisure time activity  . In recent years, many researchers have worked on traditional and ethnic foods  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  ,  and  . They have put time and effort into scientific research and the introduction of ethnic foods to the global community  .
For example, Kwon and Tamang  have defined religious foods and briefly introduced some of them. Kwon et al  have also considered old Korean documents for historical reviewing of some Korean traditional fermented foods. Shin and Jeong  have investigated Korean traditional fermented soybean products. They also analyzed the fermentation process used in the preparation of different types of sauces in Korea. The ayurvedic and traditional foods of Indian origin were introduced and classified by Sarkar et al  . The authors described the preparation method of these traditional foods. Some nonfermented ethnic foods of India were also introduced by Tamang and Thapa  . Ma  expressed the relationship between food, culture, and eating behavior in Chinese society.
Simatenda et al  have reviewed the preparation methods of traditional fermented foods in Swaziland. Khojimatov et al  have introduced some wild growing plants of Uzbekistan, which are used in the common local cuisine. Ray et al  have provided an explorative overview of traditional rice-based fermented beverages and foods in Indian cuisine.
Generally, Iranian ethnic foods are divided in two groups: wheat-based and rice-based foods. A wheat-based food in Iranian culture is a foodstuff that is served accompanying wheat bread, as well as foods made by wheat or wheat flour. Similarly, a rice-based food contains rice as the main ingredient. Iranian people usually eat a rice-based food once or twice a day, although their main rice meal is consumed at noon. In many Iranian families, a meal is not considered a food unless a rice-based dish is included, even if plenty of other foods are prepared for the meal. To the best of the authors knowledge, there is not enough research on the ethnic and traditional foods of Iran. Due to the great diversity of rice-based foods and its popularity, further studies on these types of foods are required. The objective of this study is to introduce and document some of the ethnic and traditional rice-based foods consumed in Iran.
In the current study, the data were collected randomly from people from 15 cities in five districts of Iran: North (Rasht, Sari, Babol), South (Bandarabbas, Shiraz, Bushehr), West (Tabriz, Urmia, Ahvaz), East (Mashhad, Quchan, Nishabur), and the Central Iran (Tehran, Karaj, Esfahan).
The data gathering process was carried out by a face-to-face questionnaire-based survey. The required information was obtained by interviewing housewives and domestic people. Furthermore, some parts of information were provided from literature and scientific publications as well as by researching historical documents  and  .
Iran is situated in west Asia and borders the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, and the Gulf of Oman. It is subdivided into 31 provinces. Mazandaran, Guilan, Golestan, Khuzestan, and Fars provinces are the most important producers of rice in Iran. These provinces differ in terms of temperature, precipitation rate, relative humidity, and sunshine hours. Also, the soil properties in these regions are not the same. As a result, there are many diverse varieties of cultivated rice in different provinces. The most widely-grown rice varieties in Iran are listed in Table 1 .
|No.||Province||Planted area (ha)||Cultivars|
|1||Mazandaran||238,000||Khazar, Tarom-Mahalli, Fajr, Sahel, Amol3, Bahar1|
|2||Guilan||238,000||Sadri, Hashemi, Ali-Kazemi, Hasani, Sepidrud, Kadus, Dorfak|
|3||Golestan||70,000||Domsiyah, Sange-Tarom, Neda, Nemat, Shafagh|
|4||Khuzestan||51,337||Champa, Anburi, Ahavaz1|
|5||Fars||49,360||Ghasrodashti, Anbarbu, Garde-Shahri, Champalenjani|
|6||Esfahan||15,170||Sazandegi, Sorkhe, Nokaran, Lanjan, Garde-Lanjan|
|7||Kohgiluyeh & Boyer-Ahmad||9,000||Champa-Mahalli, Charam1, Charam2, Charam3, Yasuj1, Yasuj2, Yasuj3|
|9||Chaharmahal & Bakhtiari||4,138||Garde-Mahalli, Koohrang|
Most Iranian people have three meals a day. Although the foods eaten for these meals vary in different regions, rice is commonly consumed by all people throughout the country. Table 2 introduces 100 types of traditional and ethnic rice-based foods produced and consumed in Iran. The table shows the Persian name, the English equivalent, the main ingredients of each food, and the medicinal uses and properties of the rice-based foods. The most common and popular of these foods are also shown in Fig. 1 . The list of ethnic and traditional Iranian rice-based foods can be categorized into main meals, soups/pottages, and sweets/desserts. In addition, the rice-based main meal can be subdivided into six categories (cooked rice, mixed pilaf, rice and stew, rice and high protein dish, stuffed vegetables and kofta, and tahchin ).
|Category||No.||Persian name||English equivalent||Main ingredients||Medicinal use(s)/property(ies)||Image|
|Main meals||1||Adas polow||Lentil-pilaf||Rice, lentil, minced meat, onion, spices||Anemia treatment||Fig. 1 A|
|2||Albaloo polow||Sour cherry-pilaf||Rice, sour cherry jam, minced meat, onion, saffron||Improving nervous system||Fig. 1 B|
|3||Anar polow||Pomegranate-pilaf||Rice, pomegranate, coriander, sliced pistachio||Appetizing||Fig. 1 C|
|4||Baghali polow||Fava beans-pilaf||Rice, fava beans, dill||Diarrhea remedy||Fig. 1 D|
|5||Berenj masti||Yogurt-pilaf||Rice, Yogurt, yolk egg, saffron||Diarrhea remedy||–|
|6||Berenj sorkh shodeh||Fried rice||Rice, pea, corn, ginger, spring onion, egg, butter, capsicum, soy sauce||Appetizing||–|
|7||Berenj zaferani||Saffron rice||Rice, saffron, sugar, oil||Appetizing||Fig. 1 E|
|8||Bilhar polow||Dorema aucheri-pilaf||Rice, veal, artichoke/Dorema aucheri , onion, corn oil, turmeric, pepper||Strengthening body||–|
|9||Chelow dizi||Pilaf-dizi||Rice, mutton, black-eyed pea, onion, turmeric||Nourishing||–|
|10||Chelow fesenjan||Pilaf-fesenjan||Rice, minced meat, onion, sugar, walnut, pomegranate paste||Energizing, improving nervous system||Fig. 2 A|
|11||Chelow gheimeh||Pilaf-gheimeh||Rice, split pea, mutton, potato, dried lemon, onion, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste||Strengthening body, boosting immune system||Fig. 2 B|
|12||Chelow gosht||Pilaf-meat||Rice, mutton, lemon, onion, turmeric, pepper, saffron, tomato paste, cinnamon||Sexual ability enhancement, energizing||Fig. 2 D|
|13||Chelow kebab||Pilaf-kebab||Rice, minced meat, onion, pepper||Sexual ability enhancement, energizing||Fig. 2 E|
|14||Chelow mahi||Pilaf-fish||Rice, fish, onion, turmeric, saffron||Iron deficiency anemia treatment, improving nervous system||Fig. 2 F|
|15||Chelow mahiche||Pilaf-lamb shank||Rice, lamb shank, onion, garlic, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon||Sexual ability enhancement, energizing||Fig. 2 G|
|16||Chelow-khoresh alu||Pilaf-plum stew||Rice, plum, split pea, sugar, mutton, onion, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste||Weakness treatment, constipation remedy||–|
|17||Chelow-khoresh bamiye||Pilaf-okra stew||Rice, okra, mutton, onion, lemon, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste||Sexual ability enhancement||Fig. 2 C|
|18||Chelow-khoresh beh||Pilaf-quince stew||Rice, quince, split pea, mutton, onion, lemon, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste||Appetizing, exhilarating||–|
|19||Chelow-khoresh goje-sabz||Pilaf-green plum stew||Rice, green plum, mutton, onion, mint, parsley, turmeric, pepper||Constipation remedy||–|
|20||Chelow-khoresh gol-kalam||Pilaf-cauliflower stew||Rice, cauliflower, mutton, onion, mint, parsley, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste, lemon, spices||Cancer prevention||–|
|21||Chelow-khoresh kadu-halvaie||Pilaf-pumpkin stew||Rice, pumpkin, split pea, tamarind, mutton, onion, garlic, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste||Cancer prevention, constipation remedy||–|
|22||Chelow-khoresh kangar||Pilaf-artichoke stew||Rice, artichoke, herbs, mutton, onion, pepper, tomato paste, saffron, spices||Sexual ability enhancement||–|
|23||Chelow-khoresh karafs||Pilaf-celery stew||Rice, celery, mutton, onion, mint, parsley, pepper, lemon, saffron, spices||Boosting immune system||–|
|24||Chelow-khoresh lubia-sabz||Pilaf-green beans stew||Rice, green beans, mutton, onion, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste, cinnamon||Boosting kidney health||–|
|25||Chelow-khoresh rivas||Pilaf-rhubarb stew||Rice, rhubarb, mutton, onion, pepper, saffron||Improving digestive system||–|
|26||Dale-adas polow||Red lentil-pilaf||Rice, red lentil, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, coriander, mustard powder||Boosting immune system||–|
|27||Dami||Cooked rice||Rice, water, oil, salt||Improving nervous system||–|
|28||Dandeh polow||Rib-pilaf||Rice, rib, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper||Sexual ability enhancement, energizing||–|
|29||Dolmeh barge mo||Stuffed grape leaves||Rice, grape leaves, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, dill, parsley, mint, tarragon, sugar||Improving digestive system||Fig. 3 A|
|30||Dolmeh badenjan||Stuffed eggplant||Rice, eggplant, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, spring onion, mint, tarragon, lemon, tomato paste||Iron deficiency anemia treatment||Fig. 3 B|
|31||Dolmeh felfel sabz||Stuffed capsicum||Rice, capsicum, minced meat, onion, parsley, mint, tarragon, turmeric, pepper, lemon, tomato paste||Cancer prevention||Fig. 3 C|
|32||Dolmeh gojeh farangi||Stuffed tomato||Rice, tomato, minced meat, onion, parsley, dill, tarragon, coriander, turmeric, pepper, lemon||Appetizing, weakness, & fatigue treatment||Fig. 3 D|
|33||Dolmeh kahoo||Stuffed lettuce||Rice, lettuce, minced meat, onion, parsley, tarragon, turmeric, pepper, saffron, savory||Improving nervous system||–|
|34||Dolmeh kalam barg||Stuffed cabbage||Rice, cabbage, minced meat, onion, turmeric, pepper, parsley, dill, tarragon, coriander, lemon, tomato paste, sugar||Anti-colds, improving nervous system||Fig. 3 E|
|35||Esfenaj polow||Spinach-pilaf||Rice, spinach, mutton/chicken, onion, garlic, saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper||Cancer prevention, boosting immune system||–|
|36||Estamboli polow||Green beans-pilaf||Rice, green beans, minced meat, onion, turmeric||Arthritis prevention||Fig. 1 F|
|37||Ghormeh sabzi||Herbs stew-pilaf||Rice, mutton, parsley, fenugreek, turmeric, pepper, dried lemon, onion||Strengthening body||–|
|38||Havij polow||Carrot-pilaf||Rice, carrot, minced meat, onion, sugar, saffron||Strengthening body||–|
|39||Joojeh kebab||Grilled chicken-pilaf||Rice, chicken, onion, lemon, saffron, pepper||Improving nervous system, osteoporosis prevention||Fig. 2 H|
|40||Kadu polow||Pumpkin-pilaf||Rice, pumpkin, minced meat, onion, butter, sugar, saffron, spices||Weakness & fatigue Treatment||–|
|41||Kalam polow||Cabbage-pilaf||Rice, cabbage, minced meat, onion, turmeric, lemon, tomato paste||Anemia treatment||–|
|42||Kary polow||Curry-pilaf||Rice, chicken, curry, green pea, turmeric, pepper, saffron, potato||Depression prevention||–|
|43||Kateh||Cooked rice||Rice, water, butter, salt||Diarrhea remedy||Fig. 1 G|
|44||Keshmesh polow||Raisin-pilaf||Rice, raisin, chicken, onion, saffron, sour orange paste, pepper||Weakness & fatigue treatment||–|
|45||Khorma polow||Date-pilaf||Rice, date, raisin, milk, butter, saffron||Energizing, sexual ability enhancement||Fig. 1 H|
|46||Koofteh||Kofta||Rice, minced meat, split pea, onion, lemon, egg, tomato paste, dill, parsley, tarragon, mint, savory||Strengthening body||Fig. 3 F|
|47||Labu polow||Beet-pilaf||Rice, beet, chicken, spinach, onion, saffron, pepper||Cancer prevention, anemia treatment||–|
|48||Lakh lakh||Lakh lakh||Rice, fish, garlic, onion, turmeric, pepper, coriander, dill, fenugreek, tamarind||Anemia treatment||–|
|49||Lubia polow||Beans-pilaf||Rice, beans, mutton, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon||Anemia treatment||–|
|50||Mani polow||Mani-pilaf||Rice, raisin, split pea, barberry, mutton, noodles, onion, turmeric, pepper, saffron, caraway||Anemia treatment||–|
|51||Meygoo polow||Shrimp-pilaf||Rice, shrimp, fried onion, turmeric, pepper, coriander, parsley, fenugreek||Cancer prevention||Fig. 1 I|
|52||Morasa polow||Jeweled rice||Rice, chicken, raisin, barberry, sliced pistachio, sliced almond, sliced orange, saffron, onion, pepper||Energizing||Fig. 1 J|
|53||Nokhod polow||Green pea-pilaf||Rice, green pea, minced meat, onion, tomato paste, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper,||Cancer prevention||–|
|54||Polow||Rice, pilaf||Rice, water, oil/butter, salt||Improving nervous system||–|
|55||Polow balghur||Bulgur-pilaf||Rice, wheat bulgur, lentil, onion, pepper, caraway||Improving digestive system||–|
|56||Polow bandari||Bandari-pilaf||Rice, capsicum, garlic, onion, green pea, canned fish, coriander, pepper||Anemia treatment||–|
|57||Polow cheshm bolboli||Black-eyed pea-pilaf||Rice, black-eyed Pea, dill||Diarrhea remedy||Fig. 1 K|
|58||Polow ghormeh||Fried meat-pilaf||Rice, mutton, dried lemon, fenugreek, parsley||Sexual ability enhancement||–|
|59||Polow goje||Tomato-pilaf||Rice, tomato, onion, turmeric, pepper||Appetizing, improving nervous system||Fig. 1 L|
|60||Polow sabzijat||Vegetables-pilaf||Rice, potato, carrot, onion, garlic, mushroom, tomato, capsicum, saffron, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, pepper, rose||Appetizing||–|
|61||Polow se-rang||Three-color rice||Rice, chicken breast, tomato, yogurt, onion, saffron, plum, egg, tomato paste||Cancer prevention||–|
|62||Polow shirazi||Shirazi-Pilaf||Rice, chicken, eggplant, yogurt, barberry, saffron||Strengthening body||–|
|63||Polow tond||Spiced rice||Rice, minced meat, mushroom, turmeric, pepper||Cancer prevention||–|
|64||Polow zireh||Cumin-pilaf||Rice, cumin, mutton, barberry, saffron||Improving digestive system||Fig. 1 M|
|65||Polow zorat||Corn-pilaf||Rice, corn, minced meat, onion, capsicum||Cancer prevention||–|
|66||Reshteh polow||Noodles-pilaf||Rice, noodles||Energizing, strengthening body||Fig. 1 N|
|67||Sardi polow||Sardi-pilaf||Rice, minced meat, carrot, raisin, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, caraway, coriander||Weakness & fatigue treatment||–|
|68||Shirin polow||Sweet rice||Rice, sugar, chicken, pistachio, almond, carrot, saffron, sour orange||Energizing, exhilarating||Fig. 1 O|
|69||Sholeh amiri||Sholeh amiri||Rice, mung, onion, turmeric||Weakness & fatigue treatment||–|
|70||Sib polow||Kermanshahi-pilaf||Rice, potato, minced meat, onion, date, raisin, butter, saffron||Strengthening body||–|
|71||Sibzamini polow||Potato-pilaf||Rice, potato, minced meat, onion, dill||Strengthening body||Fig. 1 P|
|72||Tahchin gharch||Mushroom-tahchin||Rice, mushroom, yogurt, yolk egg, saffron||Exhilarating||–|
|73||Tahchin goosht||Meat-tahchin||Rice, mutton, yogurt, egg, saffron||Energizing, sexual ability enhancement||–|
|74||Tahchin mahi||Fish-tahchin||Rice, fish, yogurt, yolk egg, dill, coriander, butter, saffron||Improving nervous system, anemia treatment||Fig. 4 A|
|75||Tahchin morgh||Chicken-tahchin||Rice, chicken, yogurt, egg, saffron||Osteoporosis prevention, improving nervous system||Fig. 4 B|
|76||Vanoushak polo||Pistacia atlantica-pilaf||Rice, Pistacia atlantica , minced meat, fried onion, tomato paste, saffron||Appetizing||–|
|77||Yakhmeh torsh||Sour-yakhmeh||Rice, plum, apricot, quince, sugar, mutton, turmeric||Nourishing, strengthening body||–|
|78||Zereshk polow||Barberry-pilaf||Rice, sliced pistachio, sliced almond, barberry, saffron, chicken||Strengthening body||Fig. 2 I|
|Soups & pottages||79||Ash anar||Pomegranate pottage||Rice, split peas, pomegranate, minced meat, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, angelica||Strengthening body||Fig. 6 A|
|80||Ash berenj||Rice pottage||Rice, mutton, fried onion, lentil, spinach, coriander, pepper||Healing colds||–|
|81||Ash halav||Halav pottage||Rice, white bean, chickpea, mutton, onion, parsley, mint, spring onion, chard, turmeric, bulgur, lemon||Boosting immune system||–|
|82||Ash kadou||Pumpkin soup||Rice, lentil, pumpkin, sugar, lemon, mint||Strengthening body||–|
|83||Ash mash||Mung soup||Rice, mung, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, pepper||Strengthening body||–|
|84||Ash miveh||Fruit soup||Rice, chickpea, red bean, minced meat, apricot, greengage, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, turmeric||Improving digestive system||–|
|85||Ash mostafa||Mostafa pottage||Rice, chickpea, chard, kashk (a thick liquid similar to whey), mint, onion||Strengthening body||–|
|86||Ash sabzi||Herb soup||Rice, mutton, tarragon, dill, onion, chickpea, red bean, lentil, turmeric, pepper||Healing colds||–|
|87||Ash somagh||Sumac soup||Rice flour, sumac, minced meat, onion, coriander, parsley, mint, tarragon||Improving gums||Fig. 6 B|
|88||Ghalieh ash||Ghalieh pottage||Rice flour, white bean, chickpea, minced meat, onion, carrot, parsley, mint, raisin, beet, coriander, sugar, vinegar, pepper||Strengthening body||–|
|89||Ghateghli ash||Ghateghli pottage||Rice, yogurt, spinach||Improving digestive system||–|
|90||Mashab||Mashab||Rice, mung, black-eyed pea, wheat, potato, pumpkin, lentil, mutton, fried onion, mint, turmeric, pepper, kashk||Strengthening body||–|
|91||Soup sib||Apple soup||Rice, apple, almond, garlic, butter, sugar, cream||Exhilarating||–|
|Sweets & desserts||92||Digcheh||Digcheh||Rice, sugar, milk, saffron, sliced pistachio, cardamom||Nourishing, sexual ability enhancement||Fig. 5 A|
|93||Fereni||Rice flour pudding||Rice flour, milk, sugar, rose-water||Energizing||Fig. 5 B|
|94||Halva||Halva||Rice flour, sugar, saffron, water, oil, rose-water||Nourishing, energizing||Fig. 5 C|
|95||Harireh badam||Almond gruel||Rice flour, almond powder, sugar, water||Osteoporosis prevention||–|
|96||Nan berenji||Rice bread||Rice flour, water, wheat flour, sugar, cumin, walnut||Nourishing, exhilarating||–|
|97||Shir berenj||milk-rice pudding||Rice, milk, water, sugar, rose water||Nourishing, sexual ability enhancement||Fig. 5 D|
|98||Shirini berenji||Rice cookies||Rice flour, sugar powder, egg, nigella, rose water||Exhilarating||Fig. 5 E|
|99||Shole zard||Saffron rice pudding||Rice, water, sugar, rose-water, saffron, oil, sliced almond, cinnamon, pistachio powder, cardamom powder||Energizing, nourishing||Fig. 5 F|
|100||Yakh dar behesht||Ice-in-heaven||Rice flour, starch, sugar, rose-water, milk, water, sliced pistachio||Nourishing, exhilarating||–|
Some types of Iranian cooked rice or mixed pilaf. (A) Lentil-pilaf. (B) Sour cherry-pilaf. (C) Pomegranate-pilaf. (D) Fava beans-pilaf. (E) Saffron rice. (F) Green beans-pilaf. (G) Cooked rice. (H) Date-pilaf. (I) Shrimp-pilaf. (J) Jeweled rice. (K) Black-eyed pea-pilaf. (L) Tomato-pilaf. (M) Cumin-pilaf. (N) Noodles-pilaf. (O) Sweet rice. (P) Potato-pilaf.
Therefore, rice as a main ingredient of Iranian cuisine can be consumed in one of the below groups.
Cooked rice is one of the most popular traditional foods prepared and consumed in Iran (Fig. 1 G). The rice cooking process is performed in different manners. Generally, there are three types of cooked rice, namely, dami , kateh , and polow (Numbers 27, 43, and 54 in Table 2 ).
Dami is the traditional dish of the Iranian people, which is prepared by boiling and cooking the rice in water. Before or during its preparation, salt and a little oil/butter are added. The water/rice volume ratio is about 2:1 and it changes depending on which variety of rice is used. Housewives obtain the proper ratio through trial and error. At the end of the process, the rice is cooked well and the water is completely absorbed. Kateh is the other type of cooked rice that is similar to dami . In this traditional food, using a greater water/rice volume ratio results in the production of cooked rice in a sticky and pasty form. Traditionally, the people of the Northern provinces of Iran use the glutinous varieties of rice for the preparation of kateh . Polow is also a very common Iranian food that is prepared in three steps. Firstly, the rice is soaked in salted water for 5–15 hours and then it is boiled for 20–50 minutes. Finally, the parboiled rice is drained and returned to the pan to be cooked. This technique leads to fluffy rice with nonsticky separated grains.
Mixed pilaf is a type of cooked rice that is prepared by mixing a diverse range of ingredients. Meat, chicken, fruits, vegetables, cereals, and even nuts can be added in layers or mixed well with the soaked or parboiled rice and then cooked (Numbers 1–5, 7–8, 26, 35, 36, 38, 40–42, 44, 45, 47, 49–53, 55–68, 70, 71, and 76 in Table 2 ). When the mixed pilaf is cooking in the pot, a towel is set on top of the pot to absorb the excess steam. Some types of Iranian cooked rice or mixed pilaf are shown in Fig. 1 .
There are many different types of stews in Iranian cuisine that are traditionally served with rice (Numbers 9–12, 16–25, and 37 in Table 2 ). Although the consumption of stews with bread can be seen in dietary patterns of households in Iran, the obtained results indicate that the serving of stews with rice is very more common and popular. Figs. 2 A–2C show the three most common of these rice-based foods.
The most popular and common ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in Iran. (A) Pilaf-fesenjan. (B) Pilaf-gheimeh. (C) Pilaf-okra stew. (D) Pilaf-meat. (E) Pilaf-kebab. (F) Pilaf-fish. (G) Pilaf-lamb shank. (H) Grilled chicken-pilaf. (I) Barberry-pilaf.
There are several high protein dishes in Iranian cuisine that are usually served with rice (Fig. 2 ). These national and traditional dishes may include lamb shank, mutton, minced meat, rib, fish, and chicken (Numbers 13–15, 28, 39, and 78 in Table 2 ).
Dolmeh is the name of a group of stuffed vegetable dishes popular in Iranian cuisine. Common vegetables for stuffing include eggplant, tomato, lettuce, cabbage, capsicum, and grape leave ( Fig. 3 ). The filling usually consists of soaked or parboiled rice, spices, and minced meat (Numbers 29–34 and 46 in Table 2 ).
Some types of traditional rice-based stuffed vegetable and kofta. (A) Stuffed grape leaves. (B) Stuffed eggplant. (C) Stuffed capsicum. (D) Stuffed tomato. (E) Stuffed cabbage. (F) Kofta.
There is also another type of riced based food called kofta, whose ingredients are similar to those of dolmeh ( Fig. 3 F). In a simple form, kofta are balls of minced meat combined with parboiled rice, onion, and spices. Kofta is prepared after bringing the balls to the boil and simmering for a few minutes.
Tahchin is a traditional Iranian rice-based food that looks like a cake. This popular food includes rice, egg, yogurt, saffron, and mutton. It is very common to use lamb shank, fish, chicken fillets, or vegetables instead of the mutton. Tahchin is composed of two different layers. The first part is a thin layer composed of nonrice ingredients that are arranged at the bottom of the cooking pot. The second layer includes white or saffron rice that is placed on the first layer (Numbers 72–75 in Table 2 ). Fig. 4 shows the two most popular types of this rice-based food.
Two types of Iranian tahchin . (A) Fish-tahchin . (B) Chicken-tahchin .
There are various types of traditional rice-based sweets and desserts in Iranian cuisine (Numbers 92–100 in Table 2 ). These foods can be prepared and consumed to celebrate spring festivals or important events. Some of them are often produced for religious ceremonies, as well as being consuming by pilgrims and religious tourists during special times of the year. Rice in the form of flour, grain, or powder can be used for the preparation of rice-based sweets and desserts. Fig. 5 shows some common types of traditional sweets and desserts.
Some types of traditional rice-based sweets and desserts. (A) Digcheh . (B) Rice flour pudding. (C) Halva . (D) Milk-rice pudding. (E) Rice cookies. (F) Saffron rice pudding.
Iranian traditional rice-based soups and pottages are rich and diverse (Numbers 79–91 in Table 2 ). Some of these foods can be served thin and soupy and some of them are prepared very thick. A thin rice-based soup can become thick by adding too much rice flour, too many starchy vegetables, or other thickeners, as well as boiling the soup for too long. The two delicious types of this traditional rice-based food are shown in Fig. 6 .
Two types of traditional rice-based soups and pottages. (A) Pomegranate pottage. (B) Sumac soup.
As a well-accepted principle of Iranian culture, the eating should be done on the basis of a balanced system of hot–cold foods. The hot or cold nature of a food is determined by the preparation method, main ingredients, and the characteristics such as taste. As a general and practical formula, it is believed that the cold foods should be eaten accompanying hot foods or constituents, and vice versa. For instance, pilaf-fish is a popular rice-based food of Iranian cuisine that is usually cold. In the most parts of the country, the use of dates, saffron, pepper, and other hot spices is very common for equilibrating the meal, while the consumption of foodstuffs of a cold nature such as yogurt is avoided.
The consumption of a rice-based food in the daily diet of Iranian people is very common and should be expected. In other words, the centerpiece of Iranian meals is rice. In Iran, most of the garrisons, prisons, hospitals, universities, big companies, and star-rated hotels have a restaurant providing rice-based dishes on the daily menu. The ethnic and traditional Iranian rice-based foods are not limited to just those listed in Table 2 . However, the preparation and eating of these foods by families at any time and location is possible and usual.
In certain regions along the Caspian Sea coast, the people consume rice or a rice-based food at every meal, even for breakfast. Glutinous and sticky rice is preferred in the northern areas of the country, while fluffy, long-grain, and nonsticky rice is consumed in the other parts. The popularity and generality of ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in different provinces of Iran is shown in Fig. 7 . The other rice-based foods are common throughout the country, and their popularities are not limited to a special province.
The popularity and generality of ethnic and traditional rice-based foods in different provinces of Iran.
Furthermore, the meal cycle in Iranian culture includes feasting and fasting. A feast is usually an abundant meal often accompanied by a celebration, entertainment, or ceremony. Iranian secular holidays such as Nowruz (traditional Iranian festival of spring) celebration, traditional ceremonies such as Yalda night (the longest night of the year) celebration, religious holidays such as Tasua (the 9th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar which is the day before Ashura ), and Ashura (the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, when Imam Hussein was martyred), and even personal events such as family celebrations, family parties, a childs birth celebration, deaths, and marriages are observed with special and appropriate rice-based foods.
Fasting is voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time. During the holy month of Ramadan (the 9th month in the Islamic calendar), Iranian Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to sunset. However, many types of foods are consumed daily, before dawn and after sunset. Table 3 shows the most common feasting and fasting events of the Iranian people, and the popular rice-based foods that are served in these ceremonies.
|Family celebration, family party||Official ceremony||Wedding ceremony||Yalda night celebration||Nowruz celebration||Religious ceremony||Ramadan||Funeral, death, anniversary|
|Lentil-pilaf||Fava beans-pilaf||Fava beans-pilaf||Pomegranate-pilaf||Pilaf-fesenjan||Lentil-pilaf||Almond gruel||Fava beans-pilaf|
|Fava beans-pilaf||Saffron rice||Saffron rice||Stuffed eggplant||Pilaf-fish||Fava beans-pilaf||milk-rice pudding||Pilaf-gheimeh|
|Saffron rice||Pilaf-gheimeh||Pilaf-fesenjan||Stuffed cabbage||Stuffed grape leaves||Pilaf-fesenjan||Saffron rice pudding||Pilaf-meat|
|Pilaf-meat||Pilaf-fish||Pilaf-kebab||Shirazi -pilaf||Rice cookies||Pilaf-kebab||Grilled chicken-pilaf|
|Pilaf-kebab||Pilaf-lamb shank||Pilaf-fish||Fish-tahchin||Grilled chicken-pilaf||Barberry-pilaf|
|Pilaf-fish||Grilled chicken-pilaf||Pilaf-lamb shank||Pomegranate pottage||Barberry-pilaf||Halva|
|Pilaf-lamb shank||Barberry-pilaf||Grilled chicken-pilaf||Fruit soup||Herb soup|
|Herbs stew-pilaf||Jeweled rice||Digcheh|
|Grilled chicken-pilaf||Three-color rice||Saffron rice pudding|
The main ingredient used for preparing ethnic and traditional Iranian foods is rice. Iranian people and rice have an inseparable relationship. Therefore, Iranians have developed many ways to create rice-based foods. A rice-based food is an important part of Iranian cuisine and consumed in main or side dishes by all members of the household. One hundred of the most popular ethnic rice-based foods prepared in Iran were introduced and documented in this article. Detailed investigations and further studies on the characteristics and the methods of preparation of rice-based foods are ongoing.
The author has no conflicts of interest.
All the support by the Quchan University of Advanced Technology is acknowledged and much appreciated.