July 19, 2012

Sharbat-e Tokhme Sharbati - Chia Seeds Drink: Traditional Iranian-Style Summer Drink

Traditional Iranian Chia Seeds Drink

The summer heat and humidity persists, which gives me a good reason to write about this traditional and cooling Iranian-style summertime sharbat (sherbet). I had briefly mentioned tokhme sharbati in my post about khakshir, stating that it may be added to a glass of khakshir drink for a richer drink. However, I feel that شربت تخم شربتی sharbat-e tokhme sharbati needs to have its own post and be recognized as a delicious and nutritional herbal drink with many health benefits. Tokhme sharbati is known to cool down the body, help improve hydration and is a good source of antioxidants. It's also a beautiful drink to have, with its grayish fuzzy seeds floating in the ice-water glass. It's like looking at the nighttime silver blue sky covered with the tiniest gleaming stars that seem connected from afar but are actually very far apart.

Finding the English name for tokhme sharbati was quite a challenge. The label on the package that I purchased from an Iranian grocery store said chia seeds. However, after Googling tokhme sharbati,  I also came across names such as basil seeds or mountain basil seeds.

شربت Sharbat have a long history in the Persian cuisine with many variations. Ismail Gorgani wrote in his 12th century Persian book, Zakhireye Khawrazmshahi, which was very much influenced by Ibn Sina's book of Qanoon (Canon of Medicine), about sharbats such as sekanjabin, pomegranate, etc. These sugar-sweetened drinks may be made with fruits, vegetables, herbal seeds, rose water and saffron. Now that we are told not to eat too much sugar and almost everyone is concerned about not becoming diabetic, I reduced the amount of sugar in this recipe compared to the recipe that was used in our home growing up. You may want to adjust the amount of sugar/sugar syrup to your taste and your diet. You can also substitute honey for sugar. I should point out that the authentic Iranian way of adding sugar to any sharbat is to make a sugar syrup first. For sugar syrup, add a cup of sugar to a cup of water in a small pan, bring to a gentle boil on medium-high heat, stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the syrup is reduced and thickens a bit.

Sharbat-e Tokhme Sharbati

Serves 2

2-3 teaspoons tokhme sharbati (chia seeds), can be found in Iranian/Persian markets
2 cups cool water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rose water
A few drops of fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice

  1. Stir the sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water until fully dissolved or use a couple of tablespoons of the sugar syrup as explained above. 
  2. Combine the seeds, water and the dissolved sugar, refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the seeds to plump up.
  3. Add the rose water and a few drops of lime juice to taste. The drink is best served cold.

July 03, 2012

Abdoogh Khiar - Persian Cold Yogurt Soup with Cucumbers, Herbs, Walnuts & Raisins

آبدوغ خیار Abdoogh khiar is a chilled yogurt soup with lots of aromatic fresh herbs, diced cucumbers, chopped radishes, crushed walnuts and sweet golden raisins topped with dried rose petals and served with pieces of dried/toasted flat bread. With the temperature pushing 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the past several days this traditional summer recipe replenishes you and keeps you cool during this hot, sauna-like weather. Then all you need is to take a 15-minute nap right after! That's how I remember it being in our home. Most of you who grew up in Iran probably remember the dreaded grown-ups' chorte baad az nahar (nap after lunch) in your home and that you were not allowed to play outside while they were napping. This was way before the world of text messaging, Twitter, Facebook and internet to keep you busy. However, we were not as bored as the kids these days that seem to have everything.

Yogurt is a staple in Persian cuisine and it's usually served either plain or as mast o khiar, a healthy side dish for most meals, or as doogh, our favorite yogurt drink. You most likely already have the main ingredients either in your refrigerator, cupboards or right on your kitchen table and what makes it easy is that the exact measurement of the ingredients is not really necessary. I posted this recipe a long time ago as just mast o sabzi without making it into a cold soup. This is more or less the same recipe with some minor changes. For this recipe, it's best to use mast-e kiseh (thick yogurt) for a creamier soup. To that you can either add cold water or ice cubes. Make sure not to make it too watery. Also, if you happen to have any leftover dried flat bread, cut them into pieces and add to the soup a few minutes before serving. This way the bread won't be too mushy and would still have some chew. You can add dried herbs to the cold soup if fresh ones are not available.

Abdoogh Khiar

Serves anywhere from 2-4 depending on how much you enjoy this

2 cups plain thick yogurt
4 small Persian seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into small pieces
3 medium-sized radishes, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh chives, chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 small bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 small bunch fresh tarragon, chopped
1 small bunch fresh savory, chopped
A few sprigs of fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of yellow raisins, rinsed (use more if you like it more on the sweet side)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried rose petals
Dried or toasted flat bread
Cold water or ice cubes

  1.  In a large bowl beat the yogurt with a whisk for a couple of minutes until smooth.
  2. Add the chopped cucumbers, radishes, chives, mint, basil, tarragon, savory, dill, raisins and walnuts, mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  3. Remove from the refrigerator and slowly add a little bit of cold water while mixing until it reaches the consistency you like. I like to add 1/2 cup of crushed ice.
  4. About 5-7 minutes before serving add the pieces of bread to the soup or serve on the side. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve, ladle abdoogh khiar into a large serving bowl or individual bowls and garnish with dried rose petals.