Khoresh-e fesenjān or fesenjoon is one of the most exquisite Persian stews (khoresh) with delicious sweet and sour flavors of pomegranate and walnut.
Persian cuisine is very rich but there is one ingredient that is essential to this cuisine: rice. Indeed, Persians cannot conceive serving their kebabs and stews with something other than rice. This rice called polo is available in several versions such as sabzi polo (with herbs), albaloo polo (with sour cherries), baghali polo (with fava beans and dill) or zereshk polo (with sour berries from the berberis vulgaris) to name only a few variations.
What is the origin of fesenjan?
Fesenjan (also called fesenjoon or khoresh-e fesenjan) is originally from the province of Gilan, bordering the Caspian Sea.
This region is known for its wild ducks. In fact, the original fesenjan recipe is cooked with duck. Duck was eventually replaced by chicken. It is usually prepared with chicken legs or wings (with bones). This dish can also be prepared in a vegetarian version and some also cook it with lamb, ground beef or fish.
This dish is typically prepared during the fall season when pomegranates mature. This is also a traditional dish of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year as pomegranate is one of the new fruits that are eaten during this holiday.
According to the original recipe, this dish is cooked with fresh pomegranate juice. However, nowadays, Persian chefs cook fesenjoon with pomegranate syrup or molasses, which is generally available in Persian or Middle Eastern markets.
Khoresh-e fesenjan is one of many khoresh in Iranian cuisine. Khoresh (which translates to “meal” in Farsi), is actually a generic term that defines many stews in Persian cuisine. One of the most famous is khoresh ghormeh sabzi, a beef stew with herbs, red beans and dried lemons (called limu omani).
Fesenjoon is a very unique dish. Indeed, even if sweet and sour is very common in Mediterranean cuisine, as illustrated by the use of dates in Moroccan dafina, pomegranate gives here a very tart taste that is not found in Moroccan dishes.
This is the walnut that gives the dish its smoothness and richness. Persians often say that fesenjoon is better the next day because the sauce has time to thicken and concentrate the flavors.
I made fesenjan for a Thanksgiving dinner with the family, and it was a success!
Also, it’s not every day that a dish has its own world famous song, ok maybe not world famous… but the YouTube video by A$A is definitely a must see!
- 8 chicken drumsticks (with bones)
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 4 cups walnuts
- 1 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds (optional)
- A few pomegranate seeds (to garnish)
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and turmeric. Sauté them in a pan over medium to high heat with a little oil until browned on all sides.
- Remove chicken. Add a little more oil and fry the onions for a few minutes until they are translucent.
Put the chicken pieces back in the pan. Add 2 cups (500 ml) of water (or chicken broth). Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the walnuts on a pan (with no oil) for a few minutes. It is also possible to toast them on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 F (180˚C) for 8 to 10 minutes.
Wait for a few minutes until the walnuts are warm and grind them in a food processor to obtain a powder.
- Add this walnut powder, the pomegranate molasses, sugar and cardamom seeds to the chicken.
- Cover and simmer over very low heat for 1 hour. Make sure to stir every 20 minutes to ensure that the walnuts do not stick to the bottom.
- Adjust the taste with salt and sugar before serving.
Serve with white Persian rice (polo) and pomegranate seeds to garnish.