Swords, fire and a taste of a faraway land. The Persian Ghaza station at University of Colorado-Boulder certainly has drama going for it.
The swords are the special skewers used for lamb, chicken, beef and fish — closely modeled after the way Persian soldiers ate centuries ago. “Students say ‘wow’ when they see the fire (a kebob grill that flares up when kebobs are basted),” says Executive Chef Kerry Paterson.
“It does look pretty dramatic,” says Paterson. The sword skewers are made up of a wooden handle and a flat piece of metal, which also serves a practical purpose: it keeps the meat stable during cooking.
One of nine specialty dining stations at the university's newly constructed Center for Community (C4C), Persian Ghaza gets its name from the Persian word for ‘food,’ just as Italian Cibo means ‘Italian food’ and Latin Comida means ‘Latin food,’ Paterson says.
While Italian and Latin flavor profiles are well known to chefs in the middle of America, the Persian Ghaza station took some serious study, experimentation and practice to secure the all-important claim of authenticity.
“It took us awhile to fine tune it,” Paterson says. “We worked with — and are still working with — experts on this type of cuisine and Persian restauranteurs to get it right.”
The Persian flavor profile includes saffron, dried limes, yogurt marinades, parsley, cinnamon, the tangy, fruity taste of sumac and the strong oniony flavor that comes from grated onions, rather than sliced onions.
The culinary team had to keep resisting the urge to veer into Moroccan flavors, which are similar, while developing the menu.
“We're still learning and fine tuning the recipes,” Paterson is quick to point out. “We want to keep it authentic.”
The Persian Ghaza concept is based on two pillars: kebobs and flatbreads. In addition to the flaming kebob grill, there is a stone oven that makes the delectable flatbreads, which students decorate to their liking at a topping bar that includes cucumbers, tomato, mint and more. Students can also sample traditional dips, spreads, preserves, and stews from this region.
Besides the kabobs and flatbreads, current rotating menu standouts include Jeweled Rice (Javaher Polow), wihch is rice with fruit and herbs; Eggplant and Split Pea Stew with Lamb; and Yogurt and Cucumber Salad (Salad Shirazee).
Although meat is an integral part of the cuisine, there are always vegan and vegetarian options available at the station, with vegetables working nicely on kebobs.
“Students are growing to love Persian cuisine,” Paterson says. “The station is doing much better than we ever imagined.”