A table full of dishes for Nowruz, including fried fish

Nowruz, Right Now

Every spring, blogger and cookbook author Shadi HasanzadeNemati spends the days leading up to Nowruz cleaning house, baking, and preparing for visitors.

For millions around the world, the spring equinox kicks off Persian New Year, the 13-day celebration of Nowruz. For Shadi HasanzadeNemati of Unicorns in the Kitchen, it’s a marathon of bright color, vibrant flavors, family tradition, and good things to come.

Shadi grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to the United States after meeting her husband while teaching English classes in Turkey. Now she kicks off the first day of Nowruz (March 21 this year) with her parents in Turkey or from her home in Maryland with a conference call with family around the globe—right as the equinox begins. “As a kid, I remember my mom waking us up for the very start of Nowruz. It may have been 4 a.m., but however you entered the new year, that’s how your next year would be—you never want to be asleep to enter the new year.” But Shadi’s Nowruz preparation starts long before the call with her family. It includes spring cleaning—called khaneh-tekani—and preparing her haftseen, a tabletop display of seven symbolic items.

Once the house is clean, it’s time to prep the food. Shadi serves ash reshteh, a vegetarian noodle soup; sabzi polo, an herby rice dish that represents rebirth; and fish, a symbol of life. “There’s a lot of visiting that happens during Nowruz, too,” she says. “So we make cookies—like shirini nargili and pofaki gerdooyi—and ajil for visitors to snack on.”

“For me, Nowruz is the best time of the year,” Shadi says. “You actually see nature coming back. Trees are getting green again; flowers are coming out again. We celebrate entering a whole new year.” 

Recipes for Nowruz

Ash Reshteh - Persian noodle soup in bowls

Allrecipes Magazine

Ash Reshteh

Ash Reshteh is a Persian noodle soup packed with pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, and herbs that has the consistency of stew. It’s traditionally eaten on the 13th day of Nowruz, when celebrators spend time in nature to avoid potential bad luck at home.

Sabzi Polo topped with sesame seeds

Allrecipes Magazine

Sabzi Polo

This sabzi polo recipe uses a tortilla as a shortcut: as the rice steams on top, the tortilla sizzles into a crispy, golden-brown crust called tahdig.

pieces of fried fish on platter with lemon wedges on blue background

Allrecipes Magazine

Persian Fried Fish with Saffron and Turmeric

Fried fish should be served with sabzi polo and sabzi khordan. A platter of feta, nuts, veggies, and piles of fresh herbs, sabzi khordan is a quintessential accessory to most Persian meals—it plays the part of salad, appetizer, and serve-yourself dinner garnishes, all at once.

Persian coconut cookies topped with pistachios

Allrecipes Magazine

Shirini Nargili

These coconut cookies are wonderfully light and airy—you can't eat just one.

Persian walnut cookies - Pofaki Gerdooyi - topped with slivered pistachios on plate

Allrecipes Magazine

Pofaki Gerdooyi

Walnut cookies topped with slivered pistachios are another treat that are perfect for visitors to snack on.

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