I Crossed an Ocean for Love & Pancakes

Growing up in Tehran, I used to love the Ramona Quimby books. And in almost every Ramona Quimby book, she eats pancakes.

Pancakes are really common now in Iran, but they weren’t very popular back then. I used to wonder what they were, how they tasted, and if maybe someday I could make them, too. When I finally got my hands on a pancake recipe and tried them myself, I felt like a character in one of Ramona’s adventures. To the 10-year-old me, they tasted so American. Little did I know that, years later, I would marry an American and move to the land of pancakes.

American pancakes gain nuance from saffron. Photo by James Ransom

Beyond all the challenges and experiences a new marriage brings, for us, food was always at the top. Where my staples were lavash bread, saffron, rose water, cardamom, and turmeric, Kyle’s were bacon, hash browns, bagels, and pancakes.

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But gradually, we started to meet in the middle, combining the flavors and textures of our disparate worlds.

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Top Comment:
“Thank you for sharing this with us, Shadi. Especially your genius saffron blooming technique!”
— Eric K.

Of course, we started with pancakes. A fluffy stack of pancakes for breakfast is so hard to resist—and so is a jar of homemade Persian golden saffron syrup. And in my love language, nothing's more romantic than the combination of saffron and rose. Together, they make an unforgettable combination that’s at once sweet and floral.

I used to wonder what they were, how they tasted, and if maybe someday I could make them, too.

To make Persian golden saffron syrup, you need bloomed saffron, and for that, you need finely ground saffron, which you can make by grinding it with a pinch of sugar in a mortar and pestle.

My approach to blooming saffron is different from the traditional method, where you pour hot water over it: For a deeper color and aroma, I sprinkle ground saffron over a couple of ice cubes and let the ice melt at room temperature. As saffron is such a delicate spice, this slow method of blooming won’t rush the spice’s release of color and aroma, resulting in a brighter, more fragrant taste.

Next, bring sugar and water to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer until it resembles syrup. Add the rose water and bloomed saffron and simmer for another couple minutes. Your golden syrup is ready.

As for the pancake, it’s a classic American batter with a Persian twist: cardamom and a splash of rose water. And they’re quick to cook, just 30 to 45 seconds on each side.

I like to eat these with the golden saffron syrup, obviously, and a cup of coffee or tea. The combination of American pancake and Persian syrup is full of love and surprises. It’s a connection between East and West, between two worlds that are supposed to be so far—and yet they’re so close, here, in fluffy pancake form.

How do you take your pancakes? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Carole Youngren
    Carole Youngren
  • Lauren Ruben
    Lauren Ruben
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Shadi Hasanzadenemati
    Shadi Hasanzadenemati
Shadi HasanzadeNemati is a food writer and recipe developer at Unicorns in the Kitchen. She loves a good tahdig and her favorite spice is saffron.


Carole Y. May 14, 2018
Beautiful story! Love the way you've blended cultures, food and values
Shadi H. May 14, 2018
Thank you so much Carole!
Lauren R. May 13, 2018
Wowwww this twist on the traditional pancakes speaks to me! Love these flavors!
Shadi H. May 13, 2018
Thank you Lauren!
Eric K. May 13, 2018
Thank you for sharing this with us, Shadi. Especially your genius saffron blooming technique!