Dizi, a Traditional Persian Dish
Once the food of working-class and commoners, Dizi or Abgoosht has become a popular dish amongst the new generation of Iran. These days, you can find traditional and modern Dizi houses at almost every corner of Tehran city. Most Dizi places serve solely Dizi on their menu. Nevertheless, to stimulate taste buds, traditional common side dishes are always available to order.
Dizi is a hearty dish made up of lamb and lamb broth, chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and dried lime. Add and mix all these ingredients with a dollop of fat in individual clay pots and bake overnight. The right temperature is imperative, so to bring out the flavours of the dish.
How to serve Dizi?
There are a couple of steps to serving Dizi. Firstly, empty the broth into a separate bowl. Then, break pieces of flatbread, usually Persian Sangak, into the broth. This creates an almost hearty soup. The rest of what remains in the clay pot is lamb, beans, tomatoes and potatoes. Use a meat smasher to crush the remainder of ingredients together, to get a delicious paste called Goosht-Koobideh. Sprinkle cinnamon or lime powder over the paste and enjoy it with bread. Side dishes and condiments such as Persian salsa salad (Shirazi salad), fresh herbs (Sabzi-Khordan) and pickled vegetables (Torshi) complement and balance Dizi. It is customary to drink homemade cold Dough with Dizi. Dough is a savoury yoghurt-based drink that is mixed with salt and sometimes dried mint leaves.
The final step to an authentic Dizi experience is by drinking Persian tea in thin waisted cups with sugar canes and sweets. Although there are many old school and modern Dizi houses around the city of Tehran, below is my list of top 5 places to check out.
#5 Atish Dizi Bar
Located nearby Tajrish Bazaar in North of Tehran, Atish Dizi bar is a tiny semi-modern space on the second floor of an old building. The colourful stained glass panels along the windows overlooking the street bring enough light into the space. The combination of vintage and modern adornments hung on the ceiling create a sense of comfort.
On the menu, you can find a few different dishes as well as their speciality, Dizi. The Dizi package comes with enticing side dishes such as a little bowl of Shirazi salad, pickled vegetables and a basket full of fresh herbs, mainly basil. The Sangak bread is very soft and fresh. The Dizi comes inside a nostalgic clay pot. The staff are really friendly and offer to serve and smash your Dizi for you. If you are around the Northern part of Tehran and crave some traditional Dizi for lunch, Atish Dizi bar is worth a visit.
- Location: Maghsoud Beyk – Darbandi, Tajrish Tehran
- Business Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:30 AM-12 AM
The traditional Azeri Tea and Dizi house dates back to 140 years ago. It is one of the very first Dizi houses in the Southern part of the old Tehran. This Dizi house has become an institution for traditional Dizi lovers in the capital.
The front dining area is a Tea house. It is often crowded with men smoking Shisha while sipping on Persian black tea. The main dining area is at the back and it is very spacious. The wooden tables and traditional beds, set around a water fountain, create a nostalgic ambience. Every night, you can enjoy live traditional music.
Apparently, Azeri Dizi house gets very packed during lunchtime. Therefore, plan to get there early for a suitable table. The staff are very efficient and try to approach your table as soon as you are seated. The Dizi comes inside a large black clay pot. Greek yoghurt, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs are side dishes to compliment Dizi. The Sangak bread is fresh and tasty. A large jar of homemade Dough washes down the Dizi and prepares your taste buds for the tea afterwards.
- Location: Rah-Ahan Square, Valiasr Avenue Tehran
- Business Hours: Monday – Sunday 9 AM-12 PM
When it first opened its door to the public seven years ago, Tilit Dizi bar soon became a popular Dizi house amongst Iranian celebrities and tourists in Tehran. Tilit is located in the old zone of central Tehran. The decor is very minimal, yet welcoming. The featured brick wall is in harmony with the rigid leather furniture.
The chief has taken a contemporary approach to create 19 different Dizi flavours, so diners are never short of choices. Whey and eggplant Dizi, Dizi with pomegranate paste, Dizi with seeds such as pistachios and almonds are some of the unusual, yet delicious Dizi recipes on the menu. Vegetarian Dizi is also available upon order, a day in advance. The variety of side dishes also reflect on the diversity of choices at Tilit. Different kinds of sweet and savoury pickles, dips and yoghurt are available to order. To finish off your Dizi experience at Tilit, order a cup of Persian herbal tea with sugar candy or traditional Persian Baklava from Yazd.
- Location: North Saádi, Mesbah Tehran
- Business Hours: Monday – Sunday 12 PM-4:30 PM
Most locals at Grand Bazaar of Tehran have heard of the 260 years old Timche Akbarian. This was the very first bank of Iran, run by Jews who lived in the same neighbourhood. The bank doesn’t exist anymore, however, the place has been restored into a traditional Dizi house. The nostalgic vibe of Timche Akbarian Dizi house takes you to the old Tehran. Enjoy Dizi in stone crocks, which is the most traditional way of serving Dizi in cookware. Try the homemade local Dough. Lastly, enjoy drinking Persian tea in thin waisted cups along with sugar canes to help in food digestion.
- Location: 82 Oudlajan Street Tehran
- Business Hours: Monday – Sunday 9 AM-4:30 PM
#5 Bahar Dizi Bar
My ultimate favourite Dizi in Tehran is at Bahar Dizi house. It’s newly restored building is nearby the centre of the city. To get in, one has to knock on the vintage wooden door. The interior space is rather very cosy. The 4 wooden tables and benches can host a limited number of guests at one time. The perfect arrangement of turquoise blue and gold tiles on the floor is in harmony with the stunning tiled tabletops.
To my liking, the Dizi broth isn’t too oily. The lamb stock is rich in flavours, yet light in texture. The side dishes are available upon request. The homemade Dough, with sprinkles of dried mint leaves, is heavenly tasty. Lastly, the tray of Persian teapot, thin waisted cups, Persian sequin candy and the whimsical stainless steel goblet of rose water and saffron extract top off my Dizi experience in Tehran.
- Location: North Bahar, West Isar street Tehran
- Business Hours: Monday – Sunday 9 AM-12 AM
The overall Dizi experience is a cooperative culinary experience. Dizi is more than just a dish. It is about the rich culture and tradition of the ancient land of Persia. Moreover, Dizi reflects on the importance of family cohesion and togetherness. It is about joyful moments of preserving Persian tradition while sharing an authentic dish that has been passed down from generation to generation.
All photos by Melika Shahid