BŪRĀNĪ (rarely būlānī), generic term for a category of Iranian dishes, now usually prepared with yogurt and cooked vegetables and served either hot or cold as main dishes, accompaniments, or salads. The term is found as early as the 5th/11th century in the poetry of Abu’l-ʿAbbās Marvazī and Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, in the works of the 8th/14th century satirist ʿObayd Zākānī, and in the dīvān of Bosḥāq Aṭʿema (d. 827/1423 or 830/1427; cf. Dehḵodā, s.v. būrānī). According to Naḵjavānī (p. 145), the term būrānī is derived from the name of Būrān, daughter of Ḥasan b. Sahl and wife of the caliph al-Maʾmūn, who is supposed to have created this dish. The author of the Farhang-e Nafīsī (Nafīsī, I, p. 657), however, suggests the name of the Sasanian queen Būrāndoḵt (r. 630-31) as the origin of the term.
Ḥājī Moḥammad-ʿAlī Bāvaṛčī, in his Kār-nāma (comp. 927/1521), defined būrānī as any qalya (stew) containing yogurt and garlic (p. 154). In contrast to the modern būrānī, the main ingredient of which is a single cooked vegetable, his recipe includes browned lamb cubes the size of almonds and onion rings (cf. the line by Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow quoted in Dehḵodā, loc. cit.). They were simmered in a small amount of salted water; then such vegetables as beets, zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, spinach, and even cucumbers or melon rinds were added and simmered over low heat. Sometimes the dish was seasoned with caraway seed (Bāvaṛčī, p. 155). The būrānī was served on a bed of garlic, drained yogurt, and dried mint, with water and thickened yogurt poured over it, and drizzled with saffron dissolved in oil (p. 155). Bāvaṛčī also describes (p. 63) the variant būlānī/pūlānī, which, however, he includes in the category of soups (āš).
In another work from the Safavid period, Māddat al-ḥayāt (The substance of life), by Nūr-Allāh, chef to Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 996-1038/1588-1629), a whole chapter is devoted to būrānī (pp. 238-39). Nūr-Allāh’s recipes for various kinds of būrānī are similar to those of Bāvaṛčī, though in some variations attributed to Yazd and Shiraz he substitutes whey (kašk) for yogurt and in būrānī-e māṛčūba (asparagus) he includes eggs instead of yogurt.
By the 13th/19th century meat was no longer included in the normal būrānī, which had become a dish consisting of one cooked vegetable and yogurt. Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī, chef to Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (r. 1264-1313/1848-96), included seven dishes in the category būrānī (pp. 45-46, 75): būrānī-e esfenāj (with spinach), būrānī-e kadū (with zucchini), būrānī-e čoḡondar (with beets), būrānī-e bādenjān (with eggplant), būrānī-e lūbīā-ye sabz (with green beans), būrānī-e kangar (with prickly artichokes [cf. Schlimmer, Terminologie, p. 308]), and būrānī-e qāṛč (with mushrooms). His cooking method is far less elaborate than those of the Safavid chefs; vegetables were simply to be simmered or sautéed, then mixed with yogurt and salt and pepper. This method is similar to that found in most contemporary Iranian cookbooks. The most popular modern dish in this category is būrānī-e esfenāj, prepared with chopped spinach. It is served topped or mixed with yogurt and seasoned with salt and pepper. In recent years parsley has sometimes been added, and in some regions sautéed onions are included.
In some parts of Iran these dishes are not called būrānī but are rather referred to as māst (yogurt) and the accompanying ingredient: māst o esfenāj (yogurt and spinach), māst o labū (yogurt and beets), and so on.
Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974.
Ḥājī Moḥammad-ʿAlī Bāvaṛčī Baḡdādī, Kār-nāma dar bāb-e ṭabbāḵī wa ṣaṇʿat-e ān (Manual on cooking and its techniques), in Ī. Afšār, ed., Āšpazī-e dawra-ye ṣafawī. Matn-e do resāla az ān dawra, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 34-184.
M. R. Ghanoonparvar, Persian Cuisine, 2 vols., Lexington, Ky., 1982-84, s.v.
F. Hekmat, The Art of Persian Cooking, Garden City, N.Y., 1961, pp. 133-34.
M. Mazda, In a Persian Kitchen. Favorite Recipes from the Near East, Rutland, Vt., 1980, pp. 28-30.
ʿA. Mīrzāyef, Abū Esḥāq wa faʿʿālīyat-e adabī-e ū, Dushanbe, 1971, pp. 82, 110, 113, 124.
R. Montaẓamī, Majmūʿa-ye ḡeḏāhā-ye īrānī wa farangī, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968.
ʿA.-A. Nafīsī (Nāẓem-al-Aṭebbāʾ), Farhang-e Nafīsī yā Farnūdsār, ed. S. Nafīsī, 2nd printing, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.
Hendūšāh Naḵjavānī, Tajāreb al-salaf, facs. ed. A. S. Ḥ. Rawẓātī, Isfahan, 1361 Š./1982.
Nūr-Allāh, Māddat al-ḥayāt. Resāla dar ʿelm-e ṭabbāḵī, in Ī. Afšār, ed., Āšpazī-e dawra-ye ṣafawī. Matn-e do resāla az ān dawra, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 181-253.
N. Ramazani, Persian Cooking. A Table of Exotic Delights, Charlottesville, Va., 1982.
M. Tehrānī, Ṭabbāḵī-e kadbānū, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967, pp. 68-70.
(Mohammad R. Ghanoonparvar)
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 5, pp. 554-555