When I was contacted by Soe from Lime and Cilantro (by the way these are two of my favorite ingredients!) I was the happiest, he told me about his lovely Noodleholic virtual party and how in his tradition for their New Year they should eat noodles and how important this is. That was definitely something I was not unfamiliar with.
For the Persian New Year one should eat dishes that include Sabzi (greens/herbs) to have health, love, closeness to nature and wellness and also Reshteh (in Farsi means string, also noodles) to take a string on our lives - better say to take over and be in control of our own lives and destiny...which is a very good thing.
Hearing about Soe’s project and our similar cultures pushed me to read about the history of Noodles more, and I found some very interesting points in both Persian and Chinese culture from the book Cuisines & Empires by Rachel Lauda which I’d like to share. Even though I still did not find the exact origin of the name "Reshteh" !
Here Christine from Vermilion Roots, one of the talented bloggers who is part of our #Noodleholicparty which also won the Saveur blog awards for the best new voice wrote;...It is no wonder that the word laksa is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit "Laksha", meaning "Many", but The Oxford Companion to Food claims that in fact comes from the original Persian word for noodle, "Lakhsa", adding to the complications of its origins...
In the central area of barley-wheat cuisines - Indus valley, Nile valley, Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates - already 3000 BCE these two ingredients supported small cities in the area as millet cuisine supported people in the yellow river valley. Barley, usually preferred to wheat, was not boiled or steamed as it was in the yellow river valley but was made into flavorful grayish flat breads, beer, or turned into savory or sweet porridges.
By the 200 C.E. in the roman empire baking of leavened wheaten bread had been perfected while in Persia and India wheat flour continued to be baked into flat or slightly raised breads. In China, however, it was not baked to make bread as done by the romans and the Persians but the dough was in most cases shaped and steamed to make a series of products collectively known as "bing", which can be translated as “pasta”! (dumpling and noodles)
Chinese cuisine, during the Han Empire and its confucian values, was dominated by wheat noodles, lamb and mutton, and fermented condiments. Food was eaten with chopsticks and not hands. By the fall of the Han dynasty at the end of the 2nd century CE Buddhism became very popular and changed many things, among which the cuisine. … It was during that same period when the Chinese Buddhists Monk started traveling to India to study Buddhism and take with them the essentials of Chinese cuisine as gift for Persian & Indian Empires.
By the 3rd century Chinese were already steaming grains, making noodles, and using ferments to make alcoholic drinks and condiments. Wheat flour was mixed with water to make a very malleable and moldable dough, as result of the proteins (gluten), that could be formed into long and elastic threads. The Chinese rolled the dough into sheets, formed it into noodles by slicing, pressing through holes, or pulling, formed into wrappers, or shaped into buns before steaming and serving with meaty broths, yoghurt and sesame paste. They even learned how to make noodles from grains lacking gluten such as millet or rice by pouring the dough through a sieve into boiling water to set the mixture.
In the Sassanid Empire and Zoroastrian cuisines in Persia (today’s Iran/Iraq) hot and cold meats, rice jelly, stuffed vine leaves, marinated chicken, paste of sweetened dates, soups of green vegetables thickened with flour and purees of meat and grains (harisa), were popular. Black pepper, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, fenugreek, sweets such as jams, almond pastries, dates stuffed with nuts, honey, milk, butter, rice and sugar (surely Persian) as well as fruits and wine were produced in large scales.
It is in medieval Islam when, as the history tells us, that Pasta makes its second appearance! In the 9th century Baghdad Caliphs changed the Persian cuisine to align it with the muslim culinary philosophy, and spread it along the Silk road up to the borders with China.
By the 11th century Turkic people, steppe nomads whose cuisine was very similar to the one of the Mongols, settled in Turkey pushing back the Byzantine Empire; they had convert to Islam and begin creating a more sophisticated Turko-Islamic cuisine.
Soups (Ash), fundamental to both Turkic and Mongols, adopted from the Perso-Islamic cuisine the use of thickenings such as flours, legumes and noodles. Recipes spanned from the traditional Mongol flavor to the more recently adopted Persian touch using aromatic rice, chickpeas, cinnamon, fenugreek seeds, saffron, turmeric, asafetida, attar of roses, black pepper and wine vinegar (very similar to today’s Iranian soups!). And there were of course the Turkic noodles (tutmajh) served with a creamy yoghurt and garlic sauce similar to some still served in Turkey.
In the 16th century, Jia Sixie gave fifteen different recipes for bing, a category that was now centuries old. In the 3rd century C.E., Shu Hsi, one of china's leading seculars, had written a rhapsody phrasing wheat noodles and dumpling, different ones for each season.
- Spring was the time for stuffed buns (man t'ou),
- Summer for a thin pancake,
- Fall for leavened dough
- Winter for a bowl of steaming noodles.
In Iran we have 2 very important dishes to use Reshteh: "Ash Reshteh" a traditional vegan minestrone (ash) with lots of legumes, herbs & Reshteh. Served with vinegar or Kashk (non-vegan). You can find my recipe here. And the second is "Reshteh Polo" a very strange but delicious Persian Vegan Pilaf dish made with Fried or toasted noodles, long grain rice and spices. My recipe of this delicious dish will be online tomorrow! 16th Jan. :) Don't forget to check my Instagram for the updates!
For 450g of dough which Serves 4-5 People
- 300g white flour or Italia tipo "00" + more for dusting
- 150ml water (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for frying the Reshteh
Preparing the Reshteh dough
- In a bowl place the flour and salt, mix well, add gradually the water until the dough comes together.
- Transfer the dough into the working surface and work it until you have a very elastic, soft and clean dough. (about 8-10 minutes). Wrap it in a plastic bag and place it in the fridge for at least one hour.
- After the dough has rested, prepare your pasta machine or rolling pin. In both cases it is easy - do not panic at all. The only difference is time. Of course if you search for a traditional way go always for the rolling pin which still is my favorite.
Preparing the Reshteh sheets
- Like my grandmother says, during her grandma's time (1860) in Iran people used wooden boards and long rolling pins to roll Reshteh (like in Italy). Wooden boards are great for rolling the dough because they absorb the humidity and make it dry faster. And because they have a rough texture that makes rolling easier. Clean the rolling pin and the working board really well before dusting with flour, and also after!
- Roll the dough with the rolling pin; if it's the first time that you roll the dough, it's only about time. Making pasta, noodles, or Reshteh, needs time and patience. The more you do it, the easier it will get. I have a long rolling pin which is perfect for rolling any pasta and I did master it after years of working only with the rolling pin. But this year I finally got my Pasta machine which really made everything easier and faster. But the pleasure is always in works made 100% by hand.
- Dust your working board/surface with flour. If you are an amateur, start with a smaller amount of dough, cut it into 3 pieces (keep the rest wrapped in plastic) and work with one at a time.
- Flatten the dough out from the center to the edges. With each and every roll you do, you should also rotate the dough (1/4) - to make an even circle.
- You need to flip the dough too, to dust the both sides to avoid sticking. Continue until the desired thickness - in this case for Reshteh 1mm/1.5mm.
- Dust the sheet, roll the pasta from both sides into the center - cut the sheets into 3-4mm (very similar to linguine) using a very sharp knife. (or use a machine)
- Flour them very well, and place them on the wooden surface to dry.
- You can use fresh Reshteh for Ash Reshteh (Persian Vegan Thick Soup) | آش رشته - or to make any other recipe such as minestrone, paste and noodle recipes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), flour the Rehsteh very well and place them in a oven tray with parchment paper. Toast them in the oven until light brown. Let them cool completely. You can use these for Reshteh Polo, and I think for the soups too (never tried it though!)
Fried Reshteh (my favorite)
- Preheat some vegetable oil in a pan or pot, cut the long Reshteh in shorter pieces (2-3cm), fry them until light brown, take them out quickly before they get dark brown or burn - place them on a kitchen towel to take the extra oil out. This recipe is perfect for Reshte Polo (Persian Noodle & rice Pilaf).
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