The Persian New Year, Nowruz, begins on the day of the spring equinox. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, full of clearer skies and warmer days. Nowruz (pronounced no-rooz) is a 13-day celebration full of eating and reconnecting with loved ones. One of the centerpieces of Nowruz is a table-setting of seven symbolic foods all starting with the letter ’S’, a tradition that dates back thousands of years. Like Rosh Hashanah, the seven foods displayed on the table symbolize a symbolic meaning. During Nowruz, the seven foods and what they represent are:
- Sumac (crushed spice of berries): For the sunrise and the spice of life
- Senjed (sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree): For love and affection
- Serkeh (vinegar): For patience and age
- Seeb (apples): For health and beauty
- Sir (garlic): For good health
- Samanu (wheat pudding): For fertility and the sweetness of life
- Sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass): For rebirth and renewal of nature
During Nowruz, you can find everything on the dinner table, from copious amounts of Barbari bread (Persian flatbread) to ash-e resteh (noodle soup) to sabzi pollo mahi (fish served with special rice mixed with green herbs). If you celebrate Nowruz or are curious to know more about it, then ring in the arrival of spring with these five restaurants serving the best of Persian and Central Asian cuisine.
A staple in the Persian community since it opened in 1983. Known for their joojeh kebab (boneless chicken thighs marinated in saffron, onion and lime juice, vegetables, basmati rice.) and ghorme sabzee (lamb shank cooked in finely chopped onion, leek, scallions, chives and herbs, dried lime, basmati rice.) The restaurant is located in the heart of North Beach, making it a great place to begin or end your day in the city.
Lavash serves solid renditions of classic Persian stews, such as fesenjan (chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce) and ghormeh sabzi (beef, herbs, and kidney beans) as various rice dishes. You can find Lavash in the Sunset District.
The owner, Ismoil Ochilov, originally from Bukara in central Uzbekistan, recently opened San Francisco’s first Uzbek restaurant. The menu includes traditional Uzbek dishes like plov (a hearty rice pilaf), manti (meat-filled dumpling), and shashlyk (grilled meat skewers). You can find them in Nob Hill to get your first taste of Uzbek cuisine.
First opened in 1971, this beloved neighborhood restaurant has been serving classic Afghan dishes for decades. Though it is best known for its bold, home-style lamb dishes, the menu also includes a wide variety of vegetarian options.
Komaaj brings the Iranian breeze to the shores of San Francisco. It specializes in dishes from Gilan, a province on the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran, offering classics like kuku sabzi (herb frittata) and morgh e-torsh (chicken stew). The dishes come with an airy and light Sangak flatbread, making sure you get all your Iranian comfort food cravings. Check them out at 26th and Capp street intersection in the Mission.