Food Stories is a new column in which Best of Vegan editors and contributors share recipes from their cultures and personal stories connected to those dishes. Today, Seiran Sinjari is sharing three vegan Newroz recipes to celebrate Kurdish New Year, as well as a little bit of the holiday’s history.
For me personally, there’s definitely a certain kind of magic feel around the days leading up to Newroz. The 21st of March marks the first day of the Kurdish New Year 2721. ‘Newroz’ literally means ‘new day’ and it symbolizes the spring (also coincides with the spring equinox), the light, and of course the ‘new day’. It’s an ancient holiday also celebrated by many others in the Middle East, Central Asia, and beyond.
Across Kurdistan, people will go for picnics ‘seyran’ (yes, my name means picnic!) in the countryside, eat delicious ‘Aprax’/’Dolma’ a traditional food eaten at every festive event and especially around Newroz. It’s the perfect food to bring along for those first days of spring picnics. I will tell you more about that deliciousness in a moment, but let’s first dive into what legend says about Newroz!
The Legend of Newroz
According to Kurdish legend and the stories my dad used to tell us when growing up, Kawa, the humble blacksmith, freed our people from the oppression of the tyrant king Zuhak. During the king’s reign, spring had been absent and when Kawa defeated the king, spring finally returned to Kurdistan. You can see why I’m getting those magical Newroz vibes, right?
To celebrate the victory and to tell the people they were free, Kawa lit a big fire on a mountaintop. And that’s what we still do every year on the 20th of March, the eve of Newroz. Big bonfires and torches are lit and people gather to watch this symbol of freedom. The following day is the ‘new day’ and it’s celebrated with festive foods, picnics in beautiful nature, dancing, singing, and some more food.
Kurdistan is very diverse and the rich Kurdish culinary culture also reflects this diversity. The same dish may be prepared in four different ways between all four parts of Kurdistan. Here I’m sharing three of my favorite recipes to prepare for the vegan Newroz festivities. They are based on our family recipes originating from traditional South Kurdish cuisine but all vegan of course and with a little sprinkle of my own touch too.
Happy Newroz! / Newroz Pîroz bê! / Newroztan Pîrozbêt!
Vegan Kurdish Biryani (Mixed Rice Dish with Fried Nuts, Dried Fruits, Fried Potatoes & Toasted Vermicelli Noodles)
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