Rice-based ‘Tah-chin’ as the chosen cuisine
Discuss about the Tracing the Origin and Roots of a Persian Delicacy.
Globalisation no longer allows dishes or cuisines to remain native to their points of origin. The process of migration allows the recipe of these cuisines to travel far and wide along with the people who migrate. Culture is a huge deciding factor in the history of the evolution of food. Culture influences the recipe of a dish, starting from the ingredients to the way it is served and consumed (Alibhai-Brown, 2012). Food is no longer consumed for the sake of survival. The perception has changed and these days, food finds itself in the list of pleasures. The Food Safari Field Trip aided in witnessing a Persian dish which has travelled all the way from heart of the Middle-East to the Western corners of the Asia-Pacific. For the field trip, Queen Victoria Market was selected as the destination (Karizaki, 2016). The Vic Market Place Food Hall, houses a large assortment of flavours, from Middle-Eastern to Indian, Indonesian and several others. ‘Tah-chin’, a Persian rice-based delicacy is served in several food joints in Australia and it is also found in outlets at the Food Hall (Beigi, Ramesht & Azani, 2015).
Origin of Tah-chin
The Persian style of cooking has been heavily influenced by the cooking styles of its neighbouring countries of Turkey and Azerbaijan. As geographically they lie quite close to each other, it was bound to happen and the influences are quite mutual. The Persians are known to use herbs and dry fruits, frequently in several of their dishes (Beigi, Ramesht & Azani, 2015). The ‘Tah-chin’ finds its roots in the Persian or typically the Farsi dictionary which refers to bottom for ‘Tah’ and ‘chin’ which refers to layering. ‘Chin’ however, is the root word of ‘Chidan’ which literally refers to putting together (Avc?o?lu & Avc?o?lu, 2015).
(Source: writer’s own picture from the field trip)
The Persian dishes are mostly rice based and there are several ways in preparing the rice. The main ingredients of the dishes also consist of fruits such as pomegranates, prunes, plums and quince too at times. The Persian dishes are always high on the flavour front and therefore there in Persian cuisines one can typically find the flavours and aroma of several spices that are typical of this region (Fuller, 2015). Saffron is commonly used in almost all dishes, along with cinnamon, dried limes and parsley. Tah-chin is considered to be a divine dish by the Iranians. Rice and Iranians are a mutually exclusive combination. Therefore, most of their dishes are rice based where other delights serves as side dishes to the rice-based item (Marton, 2014). ‘Tah-chin’ dish consists of saffron rice with pre-cooked chicken breasts bound together by a mixture of egg yolk and yoghurt. It appears an upturned rice cake which is layered with pieces of vegetables, dry fruits, minced meat or fish (Freedman, Chaplin & Albala, 2014).
Origin of Tah-chin
(Source: writer’s own picture from the field trip)
The three major periods of changes are marked by the trading routes of the Europeans and the Americans, hybridization of cultures in the 17th and 20th centuries, followed by introduction of industrialization in cuisine (Hall & Mitchell, 2000).
The European Mercantilism, stretched between a periods of 1400-1800 century. The Slave and Colonial systems that were prevalent during this period, made the West come in touch with the Persian culture. During this period, Persians prided themselves for having sophisticated culinary skills (Korsmeyer, 2005). Before the advent of the European Mercantilism, Persian history is thronged with details of Greek and Mongol invasion. Rice based dishes have always been at the centre of discussions and find its mention in culinary books both in the 16th as well as the 20th century (Civitello, 2011). The Safavid dynasty, which was the ruling dynasty from 1501-1722, was also famous for keeping the tradition of preparing saffron rice based preparations alive. Rice was prepared in the polow or chelow techniques during this period. The Persian food history of the 17th century is mostly reflected by the travelogues maintained by the Europeans who used to visit these parts of the globe mostly in search of spices and aromatic condiments that were native of the Middle-East regions (Dorenburg & Page, 2008). Jean Chadrin, a famous Parisian, wrote about twenty different recipes of rice based dishes. Rice gained popularity mostly due to the staggering price of wheat during this period. During the same period, produces were being brought from America to the European continent (Claflin & Scholliers, 2013). Tomatoes and potatoes were natives of the American soil but they were very rarely incorporated in the Persian dishes. Then fruits like apples and eggplants were introduced by the West to the Persians and they are widely used in several rice based dishes today (Sykes, 2013).
The Cultural hybridization marked the second wave of change where scores of people were migrating to newer destinations across the globe during the 17th and 20th centuries. The potato famine in Ireland and Scotland was a resultant of the large scale migration. A large number of people even migrated to Australia and therefore Australia is also known to have cosmopolitan attitude in regard to its food and drinking habits (Hall & Mitchell, 2000). The Pahlavi dynasty of Iran introduced the Westernized eating practices of sitting on chairs. Eating habits have also faced a transition; the Persians had no practice of using cutlery during eating, however, post the third wave, it is normal to eat with the help of cutlery (Flandrin & Montanari, 2013). The unavailability of several spices typical to the Middle East were unavailable in other parts of the world therefore a certain modification in the preparation the rice based dishes were observed (Sabara, 2013). However, several other new incorporations were also made as per the new ingredients that could be found in the current places. Several different vegetables and fruits that were not available in Iran, was now finding its way into the recipe of the rice based dishes depending on their availability (Woertz,2013). Migration has only aided in making the Persian foods more popular across the globe.
Production and Consumption of Tah-chin
The introduction of the industrialization, led to the globalization of cuisines. Technology, transport and tourism led to the popularization of several cuisines that were so long limited within the territory of a country. The cooking styles, presentation and texture have changed largely over the time (Weinbaum, 2015). This has mostly been the trend due to the various preferences of the people especially in places where it is not a native dish. Not only the preferences of the people, but the political condition of Iran is also partly responsible for bringing about the transition in the cooking style of the Persian foods that mostly comprised of rice (Barrett, 2013). Post the third wave; the rice based dishes are a resultant of being influenced by the Central Asian cultures. During the third wave of change, the world had to deal with problems like famine, hence the sophistication which was primary of the Persian delicacies, had to be compromised (Okumus & Cetin, 2015). People were dying of hunger and it did not make sense to prepare dishes heavily laden with dry fruits and condiments. The third wave paved way for rice based dishes that were made with whatever was available. The recipes were same, only the ingredients differed (Hall & Mitchell, 2000). People can now watch cooking programs on the television that show cases delicacies of different travel destinations. Several times, food festivals are organized in several places where a large assortment of exotic cuisines is displayed in a single integrated platform, allowing people to get a slice of it (Flandrin & Montanari, 2013). Hybridization or fusion of these dishes are not always welcomed by people who seek the original, exotic flavours, however, a lot of people are flexible regarding this idea and embrace it with open arms. Several times people look forward to this kind of experimentations (Sabara, 2013). There are several platforms that are found on the internet which allows people to come across the joints in the locality that serves the dishes of their choice.
For a destination to be labelled as a tourism spot, several factors are dependent on it. The culture and historical heritage are important acting factors. The marketing and portrayal of those places helps in attracting people across the globe to visit those places. The final and the most important factor of establishing a destination is its food. However, one does not need to travel to be able to enjoy the delicacies native to a place. Globalisation has brought all these delicacies to our doorstep. Thanks to the forever evolving taste buds of the population, more and more places are popping up that is serving exotic and native delicacies near us. The Persian foods are simply divine and their fans and followers are spread all over the globe. The Persian culinary is highly influenced by several cultures and it is a complex road to tread upon.
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