Published November 10, 2017
WHEN MEGAN BERMAND starts talking about Persian food, her sparkling green eyes somehow shine even brighter. Owner of the newly-opened Tulip Café & Rice Bar on Blanshard Street, Megan is passionate
about bringing the fresh, flavourful food of her home country, Iran, and of the many places along her travels—twenty- two countries and counting—to downtown Victoria’s vibrant restaurant scene.
Originally from Shiraz, Iran, Megan, whose full Persian name is Mojgan Bahremandjooy, believes that fresh herbs, spices, rice, and vegetables should anchor the menu. These are cornerstones of the Persian made-from-scratch tradition. But, as is her style, Megan has added her own unique twists, such as Tulip’s “signature piadina,” one of the many delicious lunchtime offerings. Megan first heard of the piadina in Australia, where she worked as a chef in a café. According to Megan, the light and crispy grilled sandwich “is originally from a part of Italy, where it is a street food, but they make it with cold cuts such as ham or salami.” Megan calls Tulip’s piadina “a fusion of Italian and Persian.” She wanted to do something different with it here in Canada, so added Persian touches—including grilled beef or chicken marinated and seasoned with Middle Eastern flavours, vegetables and spices—and Tulip’s own housemade yoghurt with pennyroyal dip, “to make it healthier, more Persian.”
Not only do Megan and her husband, Javad Samim, make their creamy yoghurt in-house, the all-important rice is also made fresh and different everyday. Over steaming cups of saffron tea, Megan explains the importance of rice in the Persian diet: “If Persians don’t have rice with lunch, then they haven’t had lunch.” Persian rice dishes begin with basmati rice, and Megan reveals that the rice “is evaluated on how long and how fluffy it is.” The daily rice dish at Tulip depends on what Megan “feels like when [she] wakes up in the morning.”
Just as rice is a hallmark of Persian cuisine, so are the traditional spices and herbs that complement it and other dishes. “Persian spices are very expensive and very mild. The most popular spice is saffron, which is more expensive than diamonds. It is the main and best spice we have with rice,” says Megan. Herbs such as dill, basil, parsley, and cilantro are essential as well, and Megan describes a classic Persian herb dish of parsley, basil, and radish that is the equivalent of a Canadian “side-salad.” According to Megan, one takes a little of the herb salad “with every bite of other food.”
Megan has passed on her culinary talents and restaurant experience to Javad, who now does the bulk of the cooking. She still maintains mastery over the flavour and quality of Tulip’s rice dishes, and indeed many other aspects of the family-run business, including sales and marketing, and Tulip’s interior design.
Megan says that her city [of Shiraz], an ancient Persian city known as the City of Poets and the City of Gardens, is also famous for its “ancient, beautiful houses,” and has added design touches to Tulip to recall the rich Persian architecture of Shiraz.
Megan and Javad have recently branched out into catering and are excited to bring fresh international flavours to Victoria events and celebrations. As newcomers to Canada and Victoria who have “spent many years traveling to different places and exploring cultures and cuisines,” Megan and Javad want Tulip to be a welcoming space for Victorians to share in those worldly experiences and the Persian-infused dishes they inspired.
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