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A Lakh to Remember

Persian flavors pop up at Porsena Extra Bar
Lakh Lak at Porsena Extra Bar
Persia by way of Porsena Extra Bar in the East Village | Photos: Tasting Table

On Monday nights this fall, you won't find pasta at Sara Jenkins's beloved Porsena Extra Bar in the East Village.

Instead, one of our favorite chefs and cookbook authors, Louisa Shafia of The New Persian Kitchen ($19), has launched a weekly Persian pop-up called Lakh Lakh inspired by her travels to Iran last spring—her first time visiting the country.

Shafia thought a pop-up would be the best way to showcase the flavors she encountered during her trip, organizing the menu into an array of small plates where nothing costs more than $7. She calls it Persian street food.

"There is such a diversity of snack foods there, that 'street food' seemed like the best phrase to encompass it all," Shafia says. "I'm including home cooking too: dishes that you wouldn't be able to find in a restaurant, like the chicken stew with salty plums and apricots that I tasted in the north by the Caspian Sea."

Call it what you like; we're just saying it's delicious. 

Take what she refers to as "meatballs with a surprise inside," otherwise known as kufteh tabrizi ($7). The delicate lamb meatballs, bathed in a light tomato stew, are filled with caramelized onions, walnuts and aloo, a Persian golden plum that imparts fruity acidity reminiscent of Japanese ume.

Sambuseh ($5) is Iran's answer to the samosa: flaky pastry filled with lentils and potatoes and topped with smoky nigella seeds, served on a bed of spicy relish. Shafia came across a version while visiting the Persian Gulf with her extended family, but she'd never seen it on a Persian restaurant menu in the U.S.

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Shafia's version of kebab-e torsh ($7), a more familiar dish that ecompasses both the flavors of ancient Persia and modern-day Iranian street food, reigns supreme. It's sour lamb skewer marinated in a slightly sour pomegranate and walnut dressing. A final sprinkling of brick-red sumac gives a lemony finish.

If and when you go, end your meal like we did, with a glass of Kehkshir ($4), a traditional, refreshing drink made from mugwort seed that's spiked with a bit of rose water. The drink is enjoyed during the long hot summer days in Iran—but we'd like to drink it all year long.

  • A tangle of herbs for Louisa Shafia's salad, debuting at her Persian street-food pop-up at Porsena Extra Bar.

  • The chef and cookbook author, Louisa Shafia, and her herb and cheese salad.

  • These meatballs have a surprise inside: caramelized onions, walnuts and aloo, a Persian golden plum that imparts fruity acidity.

  • Iran's answer to the samosa: sambuseh, a flaky pastry filled with lentils and potatoes and topped with smoky nigella seeds.

  • Sour lamb skewers marinated in pomegranate and walnut dressing hit the spot.

  • A platter of the pop-up's namesake: lakh lakh polo, tamarind-spiced rice with chiles, coriander and slab of fish.

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Lakh Lakh at Porsena Extra Bar 21 E .7th St. New York NY 10003 212-228-4923
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