Speak / Lesson 65

Food (Vocabulary Sprint)

In this vocabulary sprint lesson, Leyla and her husband Chris go over vocabulary associated with food. Food is an important topic of conversation in Persian culture, as Iranians have a rich history of gathering and celebrating food. In this lesson, we go over different important dishes in Persian culture, such as ghormé sabzi, fesenjoon, and kabob. In addition, we learn the words for different mealtimes. These are:

  • Breakfast - sobhāné
  • Lunch - nāhar
  • Afternoon snack - asrooné
  • Dinner - shām

In addition, we talk about drinks, and different parts of a meal such as appetizers and desserts. There are so many topics to cover about Persian food, so in this lesson, we try to get you started with a good selection of vocabulary.


how are you?

Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’

Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.


I’m well

Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.

Persian English
salām hello
chetor-ee how are you?
khoobam I’m well
merci thank you
khayli very
khayli khoobam I’m very well
khoob neestam I’m not well
man me/I
bad neestam I’m not bad
ālee great
chetor-een? how are you? (formal)
hālé shomā chetor-é? how are you? (formal)
hālet chetor-é? how are you? (informal)
khoob-ee? are you well? (informal)
mamnoonam thank you
chetor peesh meeré? how’s it going?
ché khabar? what’s the news? (what’s up?)

Chris: Learn Persian with trying conversation lesson 82

Leyla : Hello and welcome to lesson 82 of learn Persian with Chai and Conversation. So this is our vocabulary sprint unit and we are covering food today. But before we get into that, let me introduce my wonderful co host. And that is my husband Chris. Salaam.

Chris: Salam

Leyla: And so this is one of our favorite topics of conversation.

Chris: Who doesn't love food? I mean, this is really the quintessential aspect of cultural sharing

Leyla: really is it really is I mean, there's also music and the arts and everything, but really the fastest way to someone's heart is through food. If

Chris: that's right, when you think about, you know, other cultures, a lot of times the first thing you think about is what kind of food these other cultures eat.

Leyla: That's true. And I'd say Iranian food is kind of a, a underappreciated, and kind of sleeper type of food. We keep waiting for it to become the next big thing.

Chris: It's I mean, it's amazing. It's It's such a unique flavor profile. It's sweet and sour together, very, what's the word- substantial?

Leyla: But it's also pretty acceptable to Western palate, right?

Chris: Oh, absolutely.

Leyla: It doesn't do too much. It's not very foreign. seeming. It's very it's things that we're, we're we come across a lot, just in different combinations.

Chris: Yes, absolutely. It's It's so wonderful. It's difficult to boil it down. And I I personally feel really lucky because, you know, before marrying Leyla, I had gone to you know, a few dinner parties at her house and I was familiar with Persian food just through through my friendship with Leyla. But since being married to Leyla my Persian food has, I'm blessed to have an abundance of Persian food

Leyla: and I do love cooking Persian food and it's it's laborious but I find it very satisfying to Persian food and our kids love Persian

Chris: food. Oh they just gobble it up and real quick I'm going to plug the Instagram because if you're not following Leyla on Instagram, this is a great time to to open up that app and fall down a few wormholes of Instagram and find Leyla's Instagram because frequently we do stories where she records cooking and it's true. It's always really fun. And then at the end we have a big reveal with the dish and we feed it to the kids and we get their their approval or disapproval. Spoiler spoiler alert. There's never been a disapproval

Leyla: that They always do gobble it up and it's nice. Yeah, if you're trying to figure out food to feed toddlers, I would say Persian food.

Chris: That's right. There's a lot of rice, there's a technique then the vegetables get cooked in with the rice. There's little, you know, meatballs flown around in there.

Leyla: That's right. And in the in the last few years, there's really been an abundance of amazing cookbooks produced by Iranian authors, one of which has become an international bestseller which is the salt fat acid heat by Samin Nosrat. She doesn't cook exclusively Persian food, but she does talk about it in her book a lot. And if you've watched her Netflix specials, she's talked about it, but I would say that's the biggest cookbook that's come out in the past few years. And so she she does specials now in the New York Times where she shows up differently

Chris: was that one up if you don't know it, look it up. It's gonna change your food game overnight.

Leyla: And there's a few other cookbooks that I really love. And this month, we are actually on the blog going to be covering some of the Persian cookbooks that we use and we have a lot of Different things lined up for this lesson in particular. So make sure to go on the website on the page for this lesson, you'll see in all the notes all the resources. Yeah.

Chris: And and one more that I think is is essential is Bottom of the Pot. Definitely. And this is one that you'll see a lot on our, our, our website and and we've got some interviews coming out. But this is definitely one. She really nails Persian cooking. She puts it out in a very accessible way. We have a dear friend who's a neighbor, who is always borrowing or mom whips up some amazing Persian cooking and he's not Persian at all. He's from Mississippi.

Leyla: Yeah, so then without further ado, let's get into some vocabulary for Persian cooking. So first of all, what is the word for for food and Chris you're gonna be so mad at me but It has the best sound in it. word for for food in Persian is Ghaza.

Chris: Ghaza?

Leyla: Yeah, you got it.

Chris: know when it comes to food, I'm gonna nail it.

Leyla: Every morning Chris gets up now and he goes gh gh gh, which is my recommendation. It's not a great way to wake up but it's a good way to

Chris: practice that sound just because I'm going to bed too late

Leyla: ghaza. You know, to make a word plural in Persian. You just add- ghazaha

Chris: ghazaha

Leyla: yes, aha, the foods of Ron. I love the word for cook in version two. So I wanted to cover that early on. The word for cook is ash paz

Chris: ash paz

Leyla: and I've covered this with you before. Chris, can you want to explain it? Ash is the word for soup.

Chris: right. Yes. When we're talking about things that we can do with our time or employment in our activities. If you're an ash paz, As you are a soup cooker, that's what what any food prepare,

Leyla: It translates literally to someone who cooks soup

Chris: right soup cooker soup

Leyla: ash paz, but that's the word for a chef in Farsi. So ash paz then making food in general ash pazee

Chris: Ash pazee

Leyla: Yeah, so if you're, if you're a cook, you're an ash paz and you do ash pazi

Chris: That's right, ash pazi done by the ash paz. That's right.

Leyla: So I first wanted to go over some of the most common foods in Persian culture, and the most common is Polo. Polo, and that is rice. So we have Polo with everything. That's right. So Polo, and then usually you combine it with a stew -koresh. Yes. So khoresh is a stew that goes over your rice and the rice is the polo. Yeah, so polo khoresh

Chris: Polo khoresh

Leyla: Polo khoresh is the word for our combination of khoresh and polo, and there's a ton of different types of khoresh. So we're not going to go over all those in this vocabulary sprint. Those are going to be in the bonus materials for this lesson, which you can see on the website for this lesson. But some of the most common I'd say is khoresheh ghormeh sabzee

Chris: ghormeh sabzee

Leyla: yeah, and that is the the greens that we have the

Chris: this is this is a quintessential Persian dish ghormeh sabzee. And if you take the ghormeh sabzee, if you remember from a previous sprint sabzi is green. And if anyone knows any French out there Gourmet, I guess that's English too. It's just gourmet greens.

Leyla: That's right So ghormeh sabzi is a bunch of different herbs mixed together and made into this delicious stew

Chris: so good. And then there's these big red kidney beans in there and you put it all in On top of rice

Leyla: Another really common dish is khoreshe fesenjoon

Chris: Khoresh fesenjoon This is it's funny I'm I'm stumbling over this because this is actually my favorite koresh

Leyla: and that has the sweet and sour that Chris was talking about it's walnuts mixed with chicken and pomegranate juice and really good sweet and sour combination. Then there's also on the Polo you have this is probably the most important word in Persian food. Tah deeg

Chris: tahdege

Leyla: and Tad dig. Dig is the word for a pot to attack. Deeg is bottom of the pot.

Chris: There you go. That's where we get the name of that cookbook. Tah deeg.

Leyla: Yes, a tah deeg,

Chris: Tah deeg

Leyla: Can you describe what the tah deeg is? It's the burnt rice at the bottom of your pot, that in some cultures, you'd say oh, let's throw this away. But someone thousands of years ago in Iran was like maybe we should try eating this burn rice and it became a delicacy and that is the most important part of it. Food right

Chris: when when, if you ever go to a person's house and they serving you food, which they will because if you go to That's right, someone's house this is built in to the culture. You'll see on the top of their rice the rice will be in a little mound. And the top will have this beautiful golden brown crust to I won't say crust but

Leyla: crisp rice,

Chris: Crisp rice and you have to say, Wow, look at tah deeg. It's perfect because it will be.And, you know, that's the delicacy.

Leyla: That's right. Okay, so we've covered Polo. kadesh Polo in general, tah deeg. There's also ash. As we said,

Chris: Ash, that's the soup.

Leyla: Yep. So that's, that's, you know, you have that in every culture, that kind of soup that you eat in and there's also salad, and what is salad?

Chris: Well, it's salad.

Leyla: That's right. And you also have desser.

Chris: Desser

Leyla: and that is, is a desert that is where you go, I like to throw in these easy words. I mean, there are words that we use all the time. Actually To

Chris: tell you the truth, the words that are English words that have been Iranicized are the hardest for me because, you know, it's like tricking my brain into saying something with an accent that I'm not 100% familiar with.

Leyla: That's true. But so you have the foods and then you also have drinks that come with food. So a drink is a noosheedanee

Chris: Noosheedanee,

Leyla: and there's a few common noosheedanees that I'd like to go over one is chayee,

Chris: chayee

Leyla: which hopefully if you've been listening to this podcast, you know exactly what that is. Chai is tea, and we have it several times a day. There's always a cup of Chai brewing and it's it's a way for Iranians to take breaks which we do very frequently throughout the day. Lots of breaks. You have to take you have to have a talk. Take a break Sit down. That's why lots of

Chris: discussion. Lots of sitting on the couch with hot glass of chai.

Leyla: And that's why Iranians have six day work weeks, not five day work weeks. It's because it's constantly taking breaks. There's also a ghahveh

Chris: ghahveh

Leyla: and that is coffee, coffee. And I think that those both have the same roots coffee. They're very similar words. So there's also ab

Chris: ab

Leyla: Which is water. That's right. And that's a very, very simple one. The one that is a very common Iranian drink that that Chris is not a big fan of is doogh.

Chris: Yeah, doogh

Leyla: and that is the yogurt drink. Sometimes it's sometimes it's carbonate

Chris: So to so to our Western audience here. I'm not trying to discourage you from exploring the wonders of dude, but for me, it just doesn't. carbonated herb yogurt drink Is is one step past my comfort

Leyla: which is crazy to me because it's the most delicious drink it's an acquired taste some people love it.

Chris: And I'm an I am adventurous in all aspects of life but food definitely I there's very few things that I turned my nose up

Leyla: right? There's also soda,

Chris: soda

Leyla: that's our last drink that we're going to cover and that is obviously soda. And the funny thing is in Iran you really don't you don't say like Coke Pepsi you don't even say that. The the waiter will come up and they're like, what would you like to drink? And you go black, black soda and that just means any of the generic or Coca Cola or Pepsi whatever you have that's black. Then you can say white and that's you know, your sprite your Fanta your whatever. Okay, Orange is a popular one.

Chris: I mean soda is is like even in the US. There are so many regional right ways to say it. If you get a pop you're probably you know from Buffalo. You could drink a coke, right so we do down here in Texas. Yeah, so you might be a sprite, you know, if you order a coke you're not you're not ordering Coca Cola you're ordering a carbonated sugar beverage.

Leyla: That's right, that's right. But Iranians call it as it is black soda, whatever that is. So then we've covered our few foods and we've covered a few drinks. Now let's go over where you can actually have these foods. So you could eat it at home and that is ghazayeh khoonegee.

Chris: Ghazayeh khoonegee

Leyla: Yeah, and that means home food like home cooked food guys. Ghazayeh khoonegee

Chris: Ghazayeh khoonegee

Leyla: Yeah, food from home and that is the the most common

Chris: food. Can you tell us what those two words main

Leyla: Ghaza is food and then Khooneh is home. Yeah. So yeah so home cooking is just as a ghazayeh khoonegee or you could eat at a restaurant and that is that is restooran

Chris: restooran

Leyla: So now here's another really popular food that I waited until we covered it the restaurants because it neuron basically at home is where you get all your dishes and all that kind of stuff. The really good food in the restaurant is where you get kind of our our national dish and that is kabob. Ah, that's right. So you go to the restaurant and that's basically all they serve is Polo chellokabob is what it's

Chris: chellokabob. And what is cello?

Leyla: Chello is like Polo. It's like rice,

Chris: I gotta say I make a mean kebab.

Leyla: That's true. Yeah, he makes a khoonegee kabob. Yeah, it's very, very good, but it's all grilled and marinated. And just amazing.

Chris: Comes wWith a tomato that's been grilled as well,

Leyla: yeah, so chello kabob

Chris: Cello kebab. That's right.

Leyla: Okay, so now let's go over our different meals of the day. Okay, so first we have breakfast and that is sobhaneh.

Chris: Sobhaneh

Leyla: Perfect so sobh is morning. Sobhaneh breakfast, then you have lunch, and that is nahar

Chris: nahar

Leyla: And then we have it. Well, let's cover dinner first. It's sham

Chris: sham,

Leyla: and between sham and Nahar, we have something that I love in the afternoon. You have something called asrooneh

Chris: Asrooneh

Leyla: and asr means afternoon. So as soon it is this little afternoon snack that you have asrooneh. And there's actually not a word for snack in the Persian language. We don't really do snacks. We just have meals. But there's a word for just little app, the appetizers or hors d'oeuvres that you put out and that is tanagholat

Chris: tanalgholat

Leyla: tanagholat

Chris: tanagholat

Leyla: yeah that's a hard one to say. And you won't hear it very often but it's just like putting little nuts on the table Oh little

Chris: Yes. Yes. Persians love to do this.

Leyla: They do and they also love to put meeveh which is fruits. They love to put me there on the table as well.

Chris: what's it called the little like sugary treats.

Chris: Sheereenee

Leyla: So we don't really have that like snacks like snack time snack time. It's really these like meals and then you just have these 10 apples on the table.

Chris: That's right now we have something almost every single morning. Can we talk about that?

Leyla: Sure, that is noon o paneer

Chris: Noon o paneer

Leyla: That's right. Noon o paneer that's a big part of Persian culture to every breakfast.

Chris: So noon is bread noon paneer which is cheese. So it's a flat fluffy bread that you toasts and then you put cheese and other cheese betta cheese and nuts and cherries and all kinds honey sometimes. And then you make a little breakfast sandwich . And also you put in honey

Leyla: Asal

Chris: and cherry jam.

Leyla: Moraba

Chris: Moraba. And you put walnuts.

Leyla: Gerdoo.

Chris: That's right. Every single morning noon o paneer

Leyla: Yes. And there's so many words that we can cover with this topic. I mean, that like Chris said, this is one of the most important cultural things that we don't have time to cover them in this podcast. We just wanted to give you a little introduction something to go off of login to our website at Chai and Conversation with CHAI spelled CHAI. There we have tons of bonus materials with lots of different words that we can learn lots of different specific foods that we can cover and also like eating utensils and all that is in the bonus material spoons. That's all Yes, spoons. Oh man. We should talk about spoon

Chris: spoons. spoons are served with every single meal and they serve as forks and knives and also of course, spoons.

Leyla: I had no idea that this was unique to Persian culture until I started living with an American. He was confused. I was always like, why are we missing a spoon at every meal. I don't know. I always had to get one myself.

Chris: and say Leyla This is a sandwich. Why would you use a spoon for

Leyla: you use this food for everything?

Chris: Yeah. And I look over and she's just she's eating a sandwich with a spoon. That's

Leyla: that's a little bit extreme. But yes, we do eat spoon.

Chris: It's an extreme culture

Leyla: well covered that. The one last word that I wanted to cover is the word, mehmoonee. Mehmoonee and this is a very important word to because, like Chris said, runnings love to feed other people. And oftentimes that happens in a myth when you which is a party, you never have a party without food. You have your mehmoonee, your party, you invite all your friends, and you cook elaborate meals for everyone to eat. And that's a lot of fun.

Chris: That's right. And if you haven't mehmoonee please invite us we'll come.

Leyla: We'd love to. And that wraps up our lesson for today. I hope that it didn't make you too hungry. Hope that you have a Persian restaurant nearby that you can go I am so hungry. I know try some of these and we are going to go eat. Alright, see you next time on trying conversation. Hoda Hafez from Leyla

Chris: Khodahafez from Chris