When Samuel Bayani Neek arrived to Alaska in November 2009, the Alaskan winter seemed tough “At first it was really cold, and I didn’t have any friends. I did not know anyone.” He left as a refugee from his native country of Iran. He lived in Turkey before coming to Anchorage. He did not know a single person in Alaska when he arrived.
After a couple months, Samuel easily connected to the small Persian community in Anchorage. Now, he is always busy. He takes English classes in the morning, and works every afternoon. He hardly has a day off. Samuel has Persian friends, but he also has American friends and friends from other countries. He likes to go hiking and fishing, and get together to cook Persian food. “Now I like Alaska. I love Alaska. Country is country, people is people. It’s a good place”
Sam says that there are many different communities that live in Iran including Turkish, Kurdish, Azeri, and Baloch. Approximately half of the population speaks Persian and or a related dialect as their primary language, while others speak Turkic or Semetic languages.
Samuel has adapted to American culture and will always maintain pride in his home country. “The Persian community is the friendliest to other people, and has the best food.”
One of the typical dishes that Samuel prepares when he gets together with friends is Ghormeh sabzi, which means “meat and vegetable stew.” This dish is often served when family members return after being away and is thought of by many as the national Iranian dish.
Ghormeh Sabzi Recipe
2 lbs boneless lamb stewing meat, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup kidney beans
1 large potato, diced
1 cup green onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup garlic chives, finely chopped (also known as chinese leeks, or tareh)
1/4 cup fenugreek seeds, finely chopped (also called shanbelileh)
Trim meat and cut into 3/4″ cubes.
Fry onion over medium heat in half of the oil until golden.
Add turmeric and fry for 2 more minutes.
Increase heat, add meat cubes and stir over high heat until meat changes color and begins to turn brown.
Add water, drained kidney beans, salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and simmer gently for about an hour or until meat is tender.
Fry potatoes over high heat in the remaining oil until lightly browned.
Add to sauce, leaving oil in the pan.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add prepared vegetables to frying pan and fry over medium heat until wilted.
Add to sauce, add lime juice, cover and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.
Adjust seasoning and serve with white rice.