What is Ash Reshteh?

Beans, one of the ingredients of ash reshteh.

Ash reshteh is a classic Iranian dish that is often made for New Year’s celebrations or served during cold winter nights. It’s a thick, hearty soup made with a variety of beans, spinach or beet greens and pasta. The ingredients are combined and cooked together in a pot of water or broth until the liquid reduces to a heavy stew consistency. Just before finishing the dish, kashk is added to give it a creamy texture. When served, the soup is often decorated with designs made of kashk floating on the surface, as well as fried onions, fried mint, and sometimes fried minced meat.

Navy beans, which are used to make reshteh from ash.

One of the basic ingredients of ash reshteh is beans. The recipe typically calls for a combination of white beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils. Lentils cook much faster than other types of beans and are usually added after the others start to cook. Beans need to be soaked overnight if they are dried to ensure they are soft, although canned beans can also be used.

Another important element of the dish is the pasta. In Farsi, “reshteh” is the word for “noodles”. The exact type of pasta the traditional recipe calls for is unclear, because reshteh generally refers to all pasta, but has come to refer primarily to thin noodles, not unlike Italian angel hair pasta. Reshteh is often broken into pieces when added to the dish, partly to make it more edible and partly because of the tradition that it brings good luck on future trips.

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Ash reshteh is prepared by first frying onions and garlic in oil in a skillet. Once completed, water or broth is added to the pan and brought to a boil. Flour is added to the boiling liquid to help thicken the sauce; the reshteh and any spices – such as mint, parsley and cilantro – are also added. Everything can cook until the dough is ready.

The beans are then added to the ash stir-fry, along with more liquid if needed. The entire mixture is left to cook until the beans are tender and the liquid in the pan has reduced and thickened. The actual thickness of the final soup is left to the discretion of the cook, but can range from very runny to almost doughy. Right at the end, before the cooking ends, kashk, a type of whey reminiscent of sour cream, is added.

The finished ash reshteh is poured into a bowl and any number of designs can be made on top with additional kashk. Fried mint can be sprinkled on top, as can crispy fried onions or minced meat with garlic. Some recipes call for the ash stir-fry to be made a day in advance and stored overnight so the flavors have time to age and develop, although it’s not necessary.

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