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The Gossiping Gourmet: Chef puts magic in her Persian dishes

October 24, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz | By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Boneless chicken is charbroiled and marinated in saffron dressing served at Green Rice Kabob in Huntington Beach.
Boneless chicken is charbroiled and marinated in saffron… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

Soheila Siadate is an amazing chef, working quietly in the kitchen of her little Persian restaurant, Green Rice Kabob, in a Huntington Beach strip mall, where she turns out some wonderful cuisine. Chef Soheila has a distinctive way with Middle Eastern and Persian classics. Dishes we have all eaten many times are subtly transformed by her magic touch.

Our first taste, a dipping oil for pita bread, studded with garlic and chili and sprinkled with a little Parmesan, hinted at good things to come.

The appetizer plate provided an introduction to her deft use of seasonings. Each item was just a little better than we expected. We have tasted a lot of falafel in our day but none as good as these. What distinguished them was the interior texture, which was not the usual puree but was punctuated with lovely bits of garbanzo beans and sesame seeds, then seasoned to perfection. Equally good was the super-crunchy but not-at-all-greasy fried golden-brown exterior.

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The grape leaves were also especially good. The leaves were not overly briny as they often can be. They were stuffed with rice that had absorbed her unique lemony spice mixture so that the texture was very dense and flavorful.

The hummus tasted bland at first, and we were thinking that perhaps it could have used more salt, lemon or garlic, but once we got over our expectation of what it should taste like, we found ourselves going back to it again and again, until it was all gone. The flavors were subtle but addictive.

Kashk bademjan is her version of Persian eggplant spread, which has an intriguing, smoky taste. Sautéed eggplant and onions were accented with mint and topped with a liquid whey protein called kashk that is similar to yogurt or sour cream.

The platter was rounded out with three salads: parsley with bulgar wheat (tabbouleh), yogurt, mint and cucumber (maust khiar), and tomato, onion and cucumber (shirazi). They were refreshing complements to the other appetizers.

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