HARISA, a cooked dish made from a mixture of grains, usually half-ground wheat and barley, and meat, usually lamb and more recently sometimes beef, which is very similar to ḥalim (q.v.). Dehḵodā comments that “in our times, this dish is made of red meat and wheat and should be cooked until it has the smooth consistency of honey,” but he also quotesḤakim Moʾmen as remarking, in his Toḥfa, that his favorite Harisa is made of “chicken and wheat” (Dehḵodā, s.v. Harisa). In the Āšpazi-e dawra-ye Ṣafawi (p. 250), the following Safavid recipe is given for harisa: “Wheat should be half-ground and mixed with meat thrice its weight as well as rice, and then simmered. It must be stirred during the night, so that in the morning the wheat becomes imperceptible. It is then served with ground cinnamon, sugar, and oil (rowḡan).” Since harisa must be stirred throughout the night, until it reaches the right consistency to be served, a special wooden skimmer that looks like a small paddle, called kafča, was designed for this purpose (Bosḥāq Širāzi, p. 17).
The many different kinds of harisa are usually distinguished in name by an adjective referring to the speci-fic type of grain or meat it contains. For instance, the Āšpazi-e dawra-ye Ṣafawi (p. 268-69) lists the following varieties: harisa-ye berenj (with rice), harisa-ye ḡāz (with goose), harisa-ye jow (with barley), harisa-ye šir-berenj (with a rice and milk mixture), harisa-ye šir-o-bar[r]a (with milk and lamb), harisa-ye baṭ[ṭ] (with duck), harisa-ye kolang (with crane), harisa-ye gandom (with wheat), harisa-ye morḡ (with chicken), and harisa-ye maḡz-e pesta (with pistachio).
Medieval Persian texts describe harisa as a popular, everyday meal which cooks (harisa-paz or harisa-gar) would prepare in stalls (harisa-pazi) inside the bazaar (Dehḵodā). The Tāriḵ-e Boḵārā (p. 131) relates an account of a fire that started in the harisa-pazi of the bazaar of Bukhara. Beyhaqi’s references to harisa (p. 99) indicate that it was eaten as a snack to accompany wine in banquets.
However, since the Safavid era, ḥalim, which differs very little from harisa (the sole difference is the exclusive use of stripped wheat in ḥalim), has replaced it in writings about Persian cuisine, to the extent that neither the Sofra-ye aṭʿema by ʿAli-Akbar-Ḵān Āšpaz-bāši, nor the Ṭabḵ-e Irani o farangi ofRišār Ḵan (Richard Khan) Moʾaddab-al-Molk from the Qajar era, make any reference to harisa at all, while the translation of the Ketāb zahr al-rabiʿ (p. 98) only refers to it in jest, remarking on how appetizing it is for breaking one’s fast.
Iraj Afšār, ed., Āšpazi-e dawra-ye Ṣa-fawi. Matn-e do resāla az ān dawra, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981.
Abu’l-Fażl Beyhaqi, Tāriḵ-e Beyhaqi, ed. Ḵalil Ḵaṭib-Rahbar, Tehran, 2nd ed., 1371 Š./1992.
Neʿmat-Allāh Musawi Ḥosayni Jazāyeri, Zahr al-rabiʿ, tr. Nur-al-Din Moḥammad Šuštari, Tehran 1301/1884.
Abu Bakr Moḥammad b. Jaʿfar Naršaḵi, Tāriḵ-e Boḵārā, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Modarres Rażawi, Tehran, 2nd ed., 1363 Š./1984.
Bosḥāq (Abu Esḥāq) Aṭʿema Ḥallāj Širāzi, Divān-e Aṭʿema, ed. Mirzā Ḥabib Eṣfahāni, Istanbul, 1303/1886.
Ebn Monawwar, Asrār-e tawḥid fi maqāmāt-e Šayḵ Abu Saʿid, ed. Moḥammad-Reżā Šafiʿi-Kadkani, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988.
Originally Published: December 15, 2003
Last Updated: March 6, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 1, p. 5