Lifestyle & Belief

This chef serves Persian comfort food from the corner of a pizza joint in New York City


Credit: Alex Gallafent

Saeed Pourkay makes a soup called Asheh Reshteh at Taste of Persia NYC in Manhattan.

Asheh Reshteh is a thick, winter soup packed with beans, herbs and noodles. In Iran, you can buy it on the street. And now, in New York, you can try it at Taste of Persia NYC, courtesy of printer-turned-chef Saeed Pourkay.

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Taste of Persia's not really a full restaurant. It's a take-out spot tucked into the corner of a pizza joint in Manhattan. But in speaking with Pourkay, it's clear that Asheh Reshteh has played a major role in his life. He left behind a career in printing to start Taste of Persia, and, more specifically, to make one of Iran's best-known comfort foods.

"It was my first idea, to start with this complex soup," Pourkay says, "because I believed in it."

Pourkay remembers buying the soup on the streets of Tehran as a child. He also remembers fixing it for his parents. At Taste of Persia, making the soup is truly a long labor of love.

"I start around three o'clock in the morning. And it takes usually seven to eight hours from beginning to end."

Asheh Reshteh is a thick soup brimming with chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans. Later in the process, Pourkay adds linguine noodles and various different herbs and spices, along with spinach and fresh parsley.

Pourkay left behind a printing business in Iran when he came to the US in 1978, a year before the Iranian revolution. Landing in New York, Pourkay started a similar business with his brothers. But a few years ago, he decided to make a change.

"I wasn't too happy doing what I was doing," Pourkay says. "And in life, everyone is good at one thing, one thing you can be the best at. And I thought I could do something better," says Pourkay.

"I ate my investments, I ate all of my savings. I ended up leaving my wife, and when I separated, I have no place, no money. I got depressed a little bit, and it was difficult for me to find out what my passion is at the age of 55. What else can I do that I don't make a mistake again?"

And that, he says, is when he remembered Asheh Reshteh, the beloved soup from his childhood. He wanted to introduce the taste to New York.

"I didn't know that Asheh Reshteh would change my life."

Try it yourself and see. Here's a recipe.

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Saeed Pourkay gets up at 3AM each morning to make Asheh Reshteh

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    It's a thick soup filled with different kinds of beans, vegetables, and herbs

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Pourkay fries onions to add to the soup

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Pourkay uses linguine noodles in his Asheh Reshteh

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    To top the soup, Pourkay adds sauteed mint, caramelized onion and garlic, and dried, rehydrated yogurt

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    Credit: Alex Gallafent

    Persian comfort food at its best