Persian food comes in many different shapes and sizes, and not all of it is meatless, posing a challenge for vegetarians and vegans who are hesitant to try new Persian dishes. This week, columnists Regina Napolitano and Shreya Aiyar venture south of Wilshire to explore the vegetarian offerings at two establishments, Naab Cafe and Attari Sandwich Shop.
BY SHREYA AIYAR
As we took our first steps off Wilshire and entered Persian Square, the first thing we stumbled upon was the small, brightly lit Naab Cafe, garlanded by a banner that read “Grand Opening.”
Not many people were inside, however, so we took our chances and walked in. Neither of us were familiar with Persian food, so going in we weren’t sure if the vegetarian options would taste good, or worse, not even exist.
The server seated us quickly and we browsed the menu in search of meatless options. I was pleased to see that the vegetarian options on the menu were embellished with small green leaves to the side, so finding a vegetarian entree proved to be easy.
We opted for the veggie kabob and Ash Reshteh, a minty soup filled with spinach, garbanzo beans and flat noodles and topped with kashk, a delicate yogurt garnish.
The kabob was giant: A spear of grilled, almost blackened, red bell peppers and white onions bisected the plate. One half of the plate was piled with saffron and white long-grain rice, and the other had a fresh carrot, tomato and lettuce salad with a dill dressing. The Ash Reshteh looked lovely: golden-brown caramelized onions and white, creamy kashk topped a thick spinach soup base.
It was love at first taste. The soup’s subtle hints of mint mingled delicately with the stronger spinach flavor, and the noodles were cooked to perfection. The caramelized onions added a sweet, but not overwhelming layer to the appetizer. The kabob’s peppers and onions were grilled beautifully, and the dressing was superb, complementing the sweetness of the grilled onions with savory herb undertones.
Persian Square may seem too far for a student without a car, but it’s worth a trip: We found a delicious meal that compensated for every step of the long walk. During this trip south of Wilshire, we found a little pocket of vegetarian-friendly cuisine that we will surely come back for.
BY REGINA NAPOLITANO
The sounds of an acoustic guitar, the quiet gurgling of a fountain and happy chatter in English and Farsi met our ears when we stepped onto Attari Sandwich Shop’s patio.
It felt like we had been plucked out of Westwood and placed into a new, more cosmopolitan place where people regularly sit in cafes on Friday nights, leisurely sipping their tea, listening to live music and having pleasant conversations.
Once we walked inside the shop, we were greeted by the bright yellows, reds and greens of the dishes stored in the shop’s glass case and the establishment’s warm ambiance. Soon, we were also welcomed by the store’s cashier who was happy to answer both of our questions.
As per the cashier’s consultation, Shreya and I ordered half of the kuku-sabzi sandwich and half of the kuku-potato sandwich. These sandwiches were affordable at $4.95 each and even at half the regular size, they were big .
Both sandwiches were delicious, but I have to give the edge to the kuku-potato. The sandwich’s base was an egg and potato mixture that tasted like a frittata. The tasty potato and egg mix was enhanced by the perfectly crisp French baguette that surrounded it and the neighboring pickles, perfectly ripe tomatoes, lettuce, mustard and mayonnaise. I only wished my stomach capacity was larger so I could eat the whole sandwich in one sitting.
The slightly bitter kuku-sabzi was also good, and would probably be more appreciated by individuals more accustomed to bitter flavors. The sandwich had the same appetizing contents as the kuku-potato, but with a base of cooked greens and egg. It was especially good after adding the Sriracha sauce provided on our table.
Going to the Attari Sandwich Shop is like taking a mini vacation full of uncommon food and pleasant surroundings. The
sandwich shop proves that while trying new cuisine as a vegetarian or vegan can sometimes be worrisome, often those worries are unfounded. Many different restaurants have tasty vegetarian and vegan options, and though there may be occasional disappointments, taking the risk usually opens you up to great new experiences.
Recipe: Tofu kabob
An easy, healthy and Persian-inspired vegan meal is a tofu kabob. The following recipe serves about four people, and adding a skewer to it is optional.
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into bite-sized blocks
3 bell peppers, sliced
1 large, white onion, sliced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1) Marinate the tofu blocks in the soy sauce for 15 minutes to an hour.
2) Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil. Let sit for 5 minutes.
3) Add the tofu when the oil is hot. Let the tofu sit on one side and do not move it until it has cooked for at least 5 minutes. Flip the tofu cubes when one side is golden brown.
4) If there is space in the pan, add the onion and extra olive oil if necessary. Then add the bell peppers.
5) When everything has thoroughly cooked, remove contents from the pan and season with salt.
6) You could now put the tofu, bell peppers, and onion on a skewer or just eat it as is.