Inside a Banned Country's New Year Celebration

To commemorate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, an Iranian author and a New York restaurant collaborated to share noodle soup, whole fish, and baklava

Sabzi Polo MaHi, tamarind-glazed white fish with saffron crusted rice
Sabzi Polo MaHi, tamarind-glazed white fish with saffron crusted riceMike Magers

Protest comes in all forms, and those who cannot make policy can still eat. In that spirit, Roads & Kingdoms, an award-winning culture and politics publication, is throwing a Banned Countries Dinner Series featuring food from the countries affected by President Trump's failed travel ban; proceeds go to the International Rescue Committee for their efforts to aid refugees around the world.

This week, that meant a five-course feast celebrating Nowruz, the Persian new year. A collaboration between Yasmin Khan, author of The Saffron Tales, and Israeli chef Eldad Shem Tov of Glasserie, the menu—no small affair at 18 dishes—was reflective of a traditional meandering Nowruz meal in Iran, a celebration that marks the vernal equinox in the Northern hemisphere.

As guests milled around, Kaveh Haghtalab played the kamancheh, a small, pot-bellied Iranian string instrument and tables were set with brimming bowls of grilled beans and snap peas, fresh cucumbers and yogurt, turmeric pickles, zaytoun parvardeh (olives with walnuts and pomegranates), and spinach and nettle borani. As the evening progressed, aash e reshte, a homey semolina noodle stew, was passed around along with burnished whole white fish slicked with tangy tamarind and a crispy, saffron-crusted rice. By the time pistachio-rose ice cream and walnut baklava appeared, dazed eaters murmured intentions of attending all Banned Country dinners to come, "especially if there's baklava," added one woman.

Eating is, of course, only one way of getting to know a people, though certainly an effective one. To learn more about the International Rescue Committee and their work with refugees head here, and stay tuned for Roads & Kingdoms' next dinner installation.