June 16, 2012

Pan-Fried Turkey Burgers - Parsi Style

For those of you who read my blog regularly you probably know that this blog is solely dedicated to Persian home cooking, the kind of food that I grew up with, and that I also write about recipes from different regions of Iran that I mostly learn either from my good friends or from reading those few authentic Iranian cookbooks out there. However, this time, I'm going beyond posting my own recipe or writing about a mahali (regional) recipe from somewhere in Iran. For this turkey burger recipe I am going back several hundred years into ancient Persian history when a large number of devout Zartoshtian-e Irani (Parsi) fled their homeland after the Arab invasion and migrated to south of India in the 10th century AD, because of religious persecution. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of the region at the time and was founded by Zartosht (Zoroaster). The important message of Zoroastrianism is pendar-e nik (to think good thoughts), goftar-e nik (to say good words) and kerdar-e nik (to do good deeds).

There's a well-known story about the Parsi settlement in India and their cultural absorption. It's been said that the ruler of Gujarat, Jadi Rana, was not very welcoming and was concerned about over-population problems. In a meeting with the king, the Parsi leader asked for a full glass of milk and a spoonful of sugar. Then as he gently added the sugar into the glass of milk without any spillage he said, "We are like sugar, we will only sweeten your country." The Parsi community blended and thrived well in India while it also maintained its religion.

Parsi cuisine, with its roots in ancient Persia, is a unique combination of both Indian and Persian style cooking. I had read about Parsi food while reading other food blogs over the past few years but it wasn't until I came across the wonderful book, My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking by Niloufer Ichaporia King that I became tremendously intrigued and decided to write a post about it. Her story and her Parsi recipes have totally won me over. Plus, I am passionate about all things Iranian even if it's a thousand years removed!

On a more personal note, one day, a couple of years before I was born my mother met a young Zartoshti couple with two adorable little girls during a sizdah bedar outing. One of the girls' names was Azita and that was the first time my mother had heard that name and decided she was going to name her next baby girl Azita. It took her months to persuade my father who had a very uncommon name in mind. I am grateful that my mother met that family before I was born and that she didn't waver under pressure.

This recipe is adapted from Niloufer Ichaporia King's, My Bombay Kitchen. I tweaked the recipe a little to my liking by reducing the amount of pepper and fresh ginger by almost half and substituting the optional fresh mint with parsley. This recipe can be made with ground chicken as well.

Parsi-Style Turkey Burger

Serves 4

1 pound skinless, boneless ground turkey
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, minced
2 green chilies, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine ground turkey, green onions, cilantro, parsley, green chiles, egg and salt to taste. Mix all ingredients thoroughly by hand.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Take a handful of the turkey mixture and form into a patty. Place the patty in the skillet and fry until brown on both sides.
Serve on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.

Here are some Parsi food links that you might find useful:

Parsi Pakoras from The Traveler's Lunchbox
Parsi Tomato Chutney from The Wednesday Chef
Ravo (Parsi Semolina Pudding) from Fork Spoon Knife
Veg Dhansak - A Parsi Traditional Recipe from Veg Recipes of India



  1. Sounds delicious - I'll make very soon!

  2. What a story!
    I've heard of Zoroastrianism in my world history class decades ago.
    It seems to have influenced a lot of different cultures and religions all over the world.
    I love the episode of milk and sugar.
    Wonderful post! (and you are making me hungry)

  3. thanks for the link azita. there is much to learn about persian food from your blog :-)

  4. It's really nice Azita, that you posted this.
    I'm from India, and I also have some Parsi friends to whom I showed this to, and they loved it! Thank you so much! Any new recipes in store?

  5. What a lovely post! The zorastrian heritage and segment of our culture is nothing short of fascinating. I love the story of the Parsi leader's milk and sugar analogy and also the back story of how you got to be an Azita! And the burger looks delish.

  6. Hi Azita,

    I have been going through your blog the last couple of days and enjoying it.
    I love to cook different types of cuisines and also reading about them.
    The Parsi tomato chutney you mentioned above is yummy and i always have
    some in my fridge.
    I see so many similarities in Sindhi and Persian cooking; the use of fenugreek and cilantro is so similar and also the way of cooking rice.
    I have tried the Javaher Polow - Persian Jeweled Rice
    and it came out very good.
    Have managed to get the dried lemons so will try a recipe using those.

  7. images are awesome i think taste also be delicious , Regards, upma recipe