FESANJĀN (fesenjūn, fasūjan), a well known Persian dish (ḵoreš, a kind of stew) made of walnut or almond, poultry (usually duck) or small meat balls (kalla gonješkī) and pomegranate sauce or juice. The earliest dictionary mentioning it (Farhang-eĀnandrāj; q.v.) refers to it as fasūjan and states that it is a dish coming from the province of Gīlān and “the Gīlānīs know how to cook it well.” The Farhang-eNafīsī spells the word fesenjūn instead of fasūjan, as does the Farhang-e Moʿīn (q.v.). The latter also gives the Gīlakī pronunciation as fūsūnjan. In his Dīvān, the poet and lexicographer ʿAlī-Akbar Dehḵodā (q.v.) gives a detailed recipe for fesenjān in verse (p. 55).
The earliest textual reference to fesenjān is in Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī’s Sofra-ye aṭʿema (pp. 20-21), in which ten varieties of fasūjan are mentioned: walnut, almond, eggplant, kidney bean, quince, potato, carrot, pumpkin, fish, and yogurt. Most purists would frown upon such diversification. Today, however, the most common fesenjān is walnut fesenjān; the pomegranate sauce gives it the dark brown color. Sometimes a red-hot iron is put in the fesenjān in order cause some oxidization and darken the color. If the pomegranate sauce is too sour, sugar and fried onions are added to sweeten it.
In some parts of Persia walnut, and consequently fesenjān, is considered to be “hot” according to the traditional medicine’s dualistic distinction of hot (garm) and cold (sard) foods. In order to temper its hotness, but also as a substitute for sugar, peeled pumpkin is added to fesenjān. In some other places coriander, which is thought to be a “cold” plant, is added to it.
Fesenjān is an elaborate dish reserved for festive occasions; it is considered a rich man’s dish, hence the popular saying “he behaves as if has had partridge and fesenjān,” to refer to one showing off or behaving pretentiously.
Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī, Sofra-ye atʿama, Tehran 1353 Š./1974.
N. Batmanglij, Food of Life, Washington, D. C., 1990.
Idem, A Taste of Persia, Washington, 1999, p. 125.
ʿA.-A. Dehḵodā, Dīvān-e Dehḵodā, ed., M. Dabīrsīāqī, 4th ed., Tehran 1366 Š./1987.
Mūsyū Rīšār Khan Moʾaddeb-al-Molk, Tabḵ-e īrānī o farangī, Tehran 1311 Š./1932, p. 96.
R. Montaẓemī, Honar-e āšpazī, 6th ed., Tehran 1356 Š./1977, p. 589.
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: December 15, 1999