Food + Dining Main

Dinner Spreads of Your Dreams: Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro Recipes

Create a thoroughly modern feast inspired by ancient culinary traditions.

BY September 28, 2016

In the October 2016 issue of Gulfshore Life, we asked local chefs and stylists to show how you can create exotic dinner parties at home.

Recipes are courtesy of chef-owner Michael Mir of Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro.


Salad Shirazi

Makes 4 servings

This dish is named after the capital of the Pars province, the center of the Persian Empire when the ancient civilization was at its height. It is an inseparable part of the Persian dinner table. It is served as an everyday dish, and this is my unique version for Bha! Bha!’s menu.

5 Persian cucumbers (or one large English cumber), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 small red onion, diced

4 Tbsp. chopped scallions

4 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tsp. chopped mint

1 tsp. fresh dill

2 lemons, preferably Meyer

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin Lebanese (or any good Mediterranean) olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup Bulgarian, French or Israeli feta cheese

1) Place all vegetables and herbs (except lemons) in a large bowl. Slice lemons and squeeze juice into bowl. 

2) Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently with your hands. Crumble feta into bowl, and toss again a couple of times. Divide and serve in small bowls or on a large platter.

Ginger-Apricot Shrimp

Makes 4 servings

The much-beloved dish was inspired from my own childhood fascination with fresh apricot trees laden with the intense fruit under the summer sun in the town of Nahavand in central Iran. I spent four years of my boyhood there and never will forget the heavily abundant apricot trees and the town’s allure for drying fruits in the summer sun.

12 dried apricot halves

12 pitted dried plums (prunes)

2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. mango chutney, large pieces chopped

2 tsp. tamarind concentrate (Note: This is a dark, seedless paste, sometimes labeled as such, with a sweet-tart flavor; it is available online and at Middle Eastern, Indian and Asian markets.)

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/4 tsp. curry powder

1 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. chopped peeled ginger root

1/2 cup julienned peeled carrot

16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 scallion, chopped

1) Place dried apricots and plums in a small heatproof bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover. Let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain and quarter all fruit.

2) Meanwhile, mix 2/3 cup broth with soy sauce, mango chutney, tamarind concentrate and sugar in small bowl. Combine cumin, curry powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in another small bowl. (Broth and spice blends can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand separately at room temperature.)

3) Heat vegetable oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté 30 seconds. Add apricots, plums and carrot; sauté until onion begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and spice blend, stirring to coat. Cook until shrimp are pink on both sides but still uncooked in center, about 2 minutes. Add broth mixture; cover and cook until shrimp are just opaque in center, about 1 minute, adding more broth by the tablespoonful if sauce is too thick. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Zereshk Polo (Barberry Rice)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This is an elegant rice to almost everyone’s liking, which is used for lunch or dinner and served with any fowl or grilled meats—I also serve it with seafood. The berries are from a thorny bush-like plant and are not easy to cultivate and package for industry.  To this very day, Persian housewives prefer to buy them in bulk and clean and manage the preparation themselves. In the old days of family match-making, upon solicitation for the hand of a young bride for a beloved son, if at the first shared meal, grains of sand, gravel or any impurities were found in this dish, the match would be seriously jeopardized!

1/2 cup pre-cleaned zereshk (barberries) or dried cranberries cut in half (Note: Zereshk can be ordered online or from Persian markets.)

1/2 tsp. ground saffron threads dissolved in 4 Tbsp. hot water (Note: Divide mixture between 2 bowls; dissolve 1 Tbsp. sugar in 1 and set both aside.)

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 medium Spanish onion

3/4 cup plus 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

3 cups long-grain white basmati rice

2 Tbsp. salt

1/4 stick of butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1) Prepare zereshk: Soak the zereshk (or cranberries) in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

2) Meanwhile, dissolve ground saffron threads in 4 Tbsp. hot water. Divide mixture equally into 2 small bowls. Add sugar to 1 bowl. Set both aside. Cut onion into very thin slices. Sauté it in 2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil. When onions are translucent and begin to turn beige, add berries and sauté for about 1 minute more on medium heat. Add sweetened saffron water (it should be about 2 Tbsp.) to the pan; reserve bowl with unsweetened saffron water for later. Stir a few times or until most liquid is absorbed. Set aside on a cool surface.

3) Prepare rice: Pour rice in a large bowl; inspect and remove any impurities. Wash rice by placing it in a large container and covering it with lukewarm water. Using with your hands, gently agitate it as you pour off the water and wash repeatedly at least 3 times until rice is completely clean.

4) In a large nonstick pot, add salt to 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add rice to the pot and boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, stirring gently twice with a wooden spoon to loosen any grains that stick to the bottom. Do not over-boil. Taste-test rice—the kernels should break but still be as long grains and only be medium-cooked.

5) Drain the rice using a large, fine-mesh strainer and rinse with 3 cups lukewarm water. Set aside.

6) Choose a nonstick Dutch oven (or Teflon pot). Generously butter the pot all around the sides and especially the bottom (any leftover butter can be reserved to use later, if desired). In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 2 spatulas full of the cooked rice, yogurt, 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 1 Tbsp. of the unsweetened saffron water. Spread mixture over the bottom of the Dutch oven. This will form a golden crust, or tahdig.

7) Using a spatula, gently scoop rice in the Dutch oven. Cover using the dish’s own lid but wrapped completely in a clean kitchen towel or a few sheets of thick paper towel. Place the lid on tight and cook rice for 10 minutes over medium heat.

8) Mix 1/2 cup cold water with remaining 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil and remaining 1 Tbsp. unsweetened saffron water and pour over rice. Replace the clean dishtowel or layers of paper towel over the pot to absorb condensation; cover with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat and then reduce the heat to low and cook 20 to 30 minutes longer. (If the lid is slightly moved for a quick peek, an aromatic steam should escape, which indicates that the rice is ready.)

9) Remove pot from heat and let cool, still covered, on a damp surface for 5 minutes to loosen the tahdig.

10) In a large and at least 2-inch-deep serving dish, use a spatula to mix layers of rice and zereshk mix until the dish is full and you have used up all the zereshk in between the layers. You can even place a few thin pieces of butter on top, should you wish. Don’t forget to scoop the tahdig, placing on the side of the dish. Toss and mix a little, so all berries and saffron rice create a beautiful mélange. 



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