Spanish cuisine is often held in high regard worldwide, and although there is more to it than jamón serrano and tapas, I’m just not the biggest fan…and I live in Spain. Blasphemy! Sure there are some great plates, but as a vegetarian and lover of “exotic” flavors, I find the selection is limited in veggies and abundant in meats and simple flavors. Coming from Houston, dubbed “America’s newest capital of great food” by Food and Wine magazine, we are fortunate to have access to an endless variety of high-quality flavorful food from around the world: Mexican, Colombian, Cuban, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Persian, the list goes on and on. All providing many vegetarian options. The variety isn’t as ubiquitous here in Madrid, but great options do exist and one of my favorites is Banibanoo. Persian food in Madrid. Plant-based people, you are gonna love this!
The Woman Behind the Food
Born and raised in Iran, Banafsheh is the creative mind behind the concept and menu of Banibanoo. The restaurant, named after her, translates to Miss Bani in Farsi; Bani being a diminutive of her first name. The restaurant opened in 2015, but her story leading up to this date is worth going into. She studied in Paris and Madrid, completing a Masters of Marketing at IE University, then went on to work for the University for over 5 years. It is from here that she left the academic world to pursue her culinary dream in London at Le Cordon Bleu. After her stint in London, she returned to Madrid, working at a Michelin star restaurant and then as the pastry chef at Toma Café before opening Banibanoo.
What is Persian Cuisine?
You might be wondering what Persian food is all about. Staples of Persian cuisine generally include meat, rice, herbs, cheese, and bread. However, there is plenty to choose from for vegetarians. Persian food blends a variety of fruits and vegetables, spices, nuts, fresh herbs and dried fruit in its colorful combinations. The food is mild in taste, subtle in flavor, not spicy nor bland, a mixture of contrasts: tart, tangy, sweet, and earthy, unique and unforgettable. Common ingredients: pomegranates, figs, dates, raisins, prunes, saffron, rose water, fava beans, lima beans, lentils, eggplant, mint, parsley, lemon juice, walnuts, pistachios and feta cheese.
Banibanoo – A Vegetarian Delight
Surprise! Banibanoo isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, meat is served. I’ve chosen this place because there are loads of scrumptious options for a plant-based eater. I think these tantalizing photos speak for themselves. Upon walking in, your eyes will catch the colorful arrangement of dishes of the day, which may include:
- Shirin Polo – saffron rice with sweet carrots, almonds, pistachios and raisins
- Baked sweet potatoes with caramelized red onions and a pomegranate molasses sauce
- Beetroot and tomato soup
- Kashk bademjoon – smoked eggplant with mint, walnut and fried onion
- Grilled cauliflower with cilantro, tahini, and pomegranate seeds
- Kuku – an Iranian tortilla de patata
- Traditional and beetroot hummus
… and more! Are you hungry yet?
Where: c/de las Mártires Concepcionistas, 19
Metro: Manuel Becerra
Price: Weekdays 12.95€ menu of 3 options + drink and coffee or tea/ Weekends 13.95€ menu of 3 options drink and coffee or tea not included
What to expect: Generous portions. A cozy and inviting atmosphere to have breakfast or lunch.
What else?: Try the Sekanjabin– a refreshing Persian drink, dating back to ancient times, made with honey, vinegar, mint, and cucumber. Banafsheh is also a pastry chef so make sure to try a dessert and enjoy with a glass of Iranian tea.
Some Extra’s on Persian Food and Culture
If you’d like to learn more about Persian culture visit Centro Persepolis located right here in Madrid. They have ongoing events: concerts, poetry readings, films, photo exhibits, and celebrations of Iranian holidays.
All pics are from Banibanoo. Follow on Instagram.