March 21, 2011

Traditional Persian New Year Dinner in a Japanese-Style Bento Box!

Spring is here! Its signs are everywhere around us, from the tiny buds on the trees, to the tulip sprouts in the garden, the light breeze and the sounds of birds chirping early in the morning. I wish all of you an amazing year filled with joy, good health, prosperity and love. May this coming New Year bring tranquility and peace in all four corners of the world.

A while back, I came across the beautiful, refreshing, and inspirational Bentobird blog. For me that was the first time that I learned about bento. I was fascinated by the attention to detail that goes into creating a fresh, bright and cheerful single-portion lunch box with adorable characters! I admired the moms who pack such highly crafted, nutritionally balanced lunches for their kids and enjoyed looking at the well-proportioned designs but it did not even cross my mind for a second to give this artistic creation a try! It wasn't until recently that I thought of making a bento styled Persian lunch. The idea seemed too crazy at first but it is doable! Now, since we are celebrating the arrival of spring, a time of rebirth and renewal of nature, I present to you a traditional Nowruz (Persian New Year) dinner/lunch bento. Please visit the wonderful Bentobird blog and check her post on Persian Spring Bento!

Nowruz dinner is known for its lavish platter filled with sabzi polow, an aromatic saffron herb rice, tasty slices of kookoo sabzi nicely arranged on a large serving plate, a tray of white smoked fish and/or fried or baked fish, salad Shirazi or garden fresh salad, mast o khiar and/or borani esfenaj (yogurt dips), sabzi khordan (fresh herbs), pickles, bread, drinks and sweets. There may be additional food depending on regional cooking style and preferences.

As a hostess you always worry if there's going to be enough food for everyone and also for the unexpected last minute guests. Like many Iranians I grew up and learned to cook in a large family (there were six of us kids plus my parents) and to this day even though I cook for my family of four, there's always so much leftovers as if I expected four more people to show up for dinner! However, I am getting better at that and it's still a work in progress.

I understand that there are specific rules for eye pleasing arrangements, proper servings and aesthetically organized lunch boxes. I have arranged and tweaked to the best of my ability and worried about not doing a good job. This is my first attempt at creating a bento.  It's all done with a lot of enthusiasm. Any tips or suggestions?
This is also my tribute to Japan. My sympathy and prayers go out to everyone suffering from this disaster. There are many international and local charitable organizations available to help this country through its very difficult times. Here's a link to support Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Found.

Here are the contents of  Nowruz Bento:

Sabzi Polow - Herb Rice
Mahi - Fish (fried)
Kookoo Sabzi
Salad Shirazi
Mast-o-Khiar - Yogurt and Cucumber Dip
Sabzi Khordan - Fresh Herb
Toot - Mulberry Marzipan

I am delighted and honored to say that last week Turmeric and Saffron was featured as Blog of the Week on this wonderful site by Laurie Constantino! Thanks so much, Laurie!

Dafs and Daffodils

Happy Nowruz! Happy Spring!


  1. What a beautiful way to honor so many. Absolutely gorgeous. Happy Nowruz!!!

  2. Happy Nowruz! Thats an amazing bentobox.

  3. How cute! I love it! I found a bento-type lunchbox for my middle-child and would pack him his favorite leftovers from dinner: joojeh kabob and mast-o khiar. But, I kept it practical, not beautiful!

  4. Eidi shoma mubarak! I love the combination!

  5. Lovely bento box! Am so loving your writing - after eating wonderful kookoo sabzi all day yesterday, we had date omelet for lunch today and were once again very happy with your delicious Persian recipe. Thank you and Happy Nowruz!

  6. Happy New Year !

    Beautiful bentobox !

    We Japanese are waiting for the spring and have a party under Cherry Blossom trees with bentoboxes.

  7. What a lovely gesture to the people of Japan, and how nice to combine cultural traditions this way. Lovely idea! Eid-e shoma mobarak!

  8. happy new year :), thats a lovely presentation. looks delicious

  9. Hi Azita! What a beautiful and spring-fresh bento you've created, great job! Delicious dishes, vibrant contrasting colors and textures...the radish, herb and flower accents look so pretty :D

    I'm so glad you took the leap and made your first bento! (and thanks so much for mentioning my blog~)

  10. For New Year I have been making persian food for my husband's bento this week. He is Japanese so many of the dishes are new to him. I haven't been quite as decorative as this with the bento I make. I think your bento is really beautiful and you really did a wonderful job with it.