How to celebrate nowruz, the persian new year sbs food calories in apple pie slice

It’s not altogether uncommon for people celebrating nowruz, or persian new year, to spy a live goldfish (or two) on the festive table. The gilled creatures otherwise known as low-maintenance pets are symbols of new life and rebirth for iranians and anyone else noting the most significant holiday on the persian calendar; plus, they make for spectacular table decorations – provided the cat stays off the table.

Nowruz translates to english as “new day” and coincides exactly with the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. It’s a time of rejuvenation, celebration and abundance, serious spring house-cleans and even more serious table spreads – the goldfish are just the beginning.

For russoul sajadi of bahar supermarket in sydney’s ryde, it’s the busiest time of the year by far – and not just because he’s planning festivities of his own.

“we’ll be very busy today, but tomorrow is the celebration,” he tells SBS.Silver berry “bahar sells persian artefacts and books, it’s a general store for the persian community. Around this time of year, though, we mainly sell elements of the seven symbolic foods that families put on the table for nowruz.”

These foods are known as the seven ‘S’ foods, each one symbolising a different teaching in the ancient zoroastrian religion of iran. “they’re like old persian values,” sajadi says. “all the foods are arranged to make what’s called a haft sin [a farsi term that translates into english literally as “seven s’s”] table, typically displayed at nowruz.”

“sabzeh is something green – whatever seed that might germinate or grow for nowruz. Usually, this is wheatgrass. It represents rebirth and rejuvenation." 2. Samanu

“this is a sort of sweet wheatgrass pudding to symbolise food, affluence and wealth, but it’s sweetened by itself without any added sugar. The family usually prepares this the day before nowruz.” 3.Silver berry senjed

“dried leaves from the oleaster shrub, or silver berry if you’re in the US. Some might call it mountain ash. It is believed if you sit and pray beneath the silver berry tree, all your wishes will come true in the new year. Senjed symbolises love. 4. Seer

Most people have probably seen sumac in the spice aisle of their supermarket, but sajadi is referring to the spice’s original form – sour red berries. “somaq is commonly used in persian cuisine,” he says. “it’s a symbol of sunrise on a new day.” 7. Serkeh

At this point you may be wondering why they all start with the letter ‘s’. The answer, according to sajadi, may be lost to history. “there are some myths floating around, but most mythologists believe it’s just always been ‘s’ foods,” he says.

Families prepare the haft sin table about two weeks in advance, and at the precise moment the sun crosses the celestial equator (marking the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere), the feast begins.Persian cuisine

A dish such as sabzi polo ba mahi (herbed rice served with fish) is a nowruz mainstay, as is kuku sabzi, a brilliantly green herb frittata. Other favourites include mixtures of raw nuts like pistachios, almonds and walnuts, and ash-e reshteh (iranian noodle soup).

For sajadi, nowruz is more than simply an opportunity to gorge on home-cooked persian food (although it definitely is that). It’s also a chance to create an intergenerational exchange about iran’s rich culinary history.

“iran is one of the oldest multicultural societies in the world, with many ethnicities living there,” he says. “different areas have different climates: the caspian coast is cool and moist, but the closer you get to the persian gulf, the dryer and hotter it gets. In the east towards afghanistan, it’s cold and dry. The vegetation growing in these parts makes persian cuisine generally rich, because there are very different ethnicities and sources of food.”

silver berry

Sharing food and cooking traditions on nowruz is a way of connecting iranian diasporas across the world, and a near-perfect excuse to place your pet goldfish on the dining table. Happy persian new year!

This year, nowruz falls on wednesday march 21. Why not explore our collection of iranian recipes and find some dishes to make for the holiday?