12/01/2012 12:09:00 PM

Ethnic Eats: Ash Reshteh at Union Square’s Taste of Persia NYC

Employees at Ash Reshteh in Union Square 
If you ever find yourself suddenly trapped in the rat maze that is the Union Square Holiday Market, chances are you’ll find people scattered throughout clutching giant containers of a lurid green soup that they greedily spoon into their mouths like there’s no tomorrow. We tracked down the dish, bloodhound-style, and found Saeed Pourkay (perhaps the most smiley man in all of the holiday market) doling out the concoction into countless paper mugs at his Taste of Persia kiosk.

It’s...green. Not a vague, subtle green, but an in-your-face, don’t-spill-on-your-white-shirt kind of hue.   Pourkay says it’s from all the veggies (namely, the spinach) that go into it. Which brings up the question: what exactly is in this soup, which is called ash reshteh? You can spot corn, chick peas, noodles (i.e., reshteh), red kidney beans, and loads and loads of herbs. Cilantro and parsley are abundant. And once it’s ladled out, then the fun part begins. “The beauty is in the toppings,” Pourkay says. A sprinkling of caramelized onions and garlic, as well as sauteed mint that has a chutney-like consistency, alongside a generous drizzle of creamy whey (also known as kashk), provides more wonderful flavors and textures while also offsetting the aforementioned color.

The demand may be due to the status ash reshteh has in Iran. It’s a celebratory, community-driven soup, one that’s meant to be shared. “Everyone makes it different,” Pourkay says. “When someone comes home after traveling, a family will immediately make this. You give it to the poor, or share it with your neighbors.” And as people excitedly speak in Farsi as they get into the particulars about how much mint or kashk to add, you can tell that this is no ordinary meal.

Repeat customers chatting like old friends as they not-so-patiently inquire as to when Pourkay will open a restaurant in the area. (About that: Expect to see a pint-sized establishment open up sometime in the next year in the Union Square area.) “People have been waiting,” Pourkay says in astonishment. “They ask, ‘What are we going to do without you?’”

For now, the stall will be there until Christmas Eve, line and all, as Pourkay’s many fans support his fledgling business.

The Particulars: Price - $6 (12 oz.), $8 (16 oz.), $15 (32 oz.); Location - Union Square Holiday Market, stall F24 (until 12/24/2012)