Last week we had an awesome time with Tara from Magarie Collective, chatting about traditional cuisine and the world of vegan cooking. While having a tea together, she unfolded the story behind her project and shared her secret recipe for a vegan version of the traditional Persian dish "Bij Bij" from the Mazandaran Province in Iran.


What is the origin of Bij Bij, and when is it typically served?

Bij Bij originates from Mazandaran Province in Iran, where my family is from. It's a dish commonly known among those from the Caspian Sea region of Iran. To me, Bij bij holds a special place as a comfort food, traditionally crafted with ground meat, caramelized onions, spices, all simmered in a tomato-based sauce. Some variations include adding poached eggs at the center, and it's usually enjoyed with bread or rice, fresh herbs and yogurt.

What's your personal connection to this dish?

I have a strong nostalgic connection to this dish as it was a staple during my upbringing. It is one of those dishes that children love to eat, like Italian bolognese sauce. It was essentially the only meat-based dish, besides kebabs, that I ate as a child. my aunt made me my first vegan bij bij using dehydrated soy mince. I was amazed that she even had this condiment in her home. She told me, that sometimes she switches ground beef with soy mince so her husband eats less meat (for health reasons) and he didn’t even notice the difference. when I tasted her vegan bij bij it was pure nostalgia. i was back in my childhood. Bij bij will forever be one of my all-time favorite dishes. 

What challenges did you have while creating the vegan version of Bij Bij?

Experimenting with meat substitutes for this recipe was initially disappointing. Tofu is the perfect replacement for the ground beef. As emphasized in my recipes, the quality of ingredients and patience in cooking are paramount. I invest a lot of time in simmering the flavors to achieve a rich, complex taste. To add a final touch of balance, I always incorporate lemon juice before serving.




bij bij 

  • 500g  Tofu
  • 2 Medium White Onions 
  • 3 Cloves Of Garlic
  • 8 tbsp. Neutral Oil
  • 2 tsp. Curcuma
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon 
  • 200g Tomato Paste 
  • 1/2 Lemon Juice 
  • x Water 

green bean topping 

  • 400g Green Beans 
  • 15-29 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic 
  • 4tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Zest of a Whole Lemon
  • 1/2 Lemon Juice 
  • 1tsp. Chili Flakes 


  • 400g Basmati Rice
  • x Water 
  • 1/2 Curcuma 
  • 5 tsp. Neutral Oil 

Salt, Pepper, Water, and Lemon To Taste 


1. Start with the bij bij.

Dice the onions and garlic and set aside. Dry the tofu with a kitchen towel, then crumble it into a deep pan. Add 3-4tbsp. of neutral oil, turn up the heat and fry the tofu until you get some golden bits for about 8-10min. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. To the same pan add 5tbsp. of neutral oil and the diced onions. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and turn down the heat to medium. Add salt, curcuma and cinnamon and cook the spices for another min before adding 1whole tube of tomato paste. Fry the paste on a medium/low heat for another 4minutes, or until the color turns deep red. Be careful not to burn the paste or garlic, if needed add more oil. Combine the tomato spice mixture with the tofu, then slowly add water and stir until you get a saucy consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon and cinnamon and let it simmer on the lowest until the rest is ready.

2. Wash the rice, add salt and cold water, bring to a boil and cook until al dente. never leave the pot!!! Drain it and add a tiny bit of water and oil to the bottom of the pot so the whole surface is covered. Add ½ tsp. of curcuma and mix. transfer the rice back to the pot, cover with some paper towels and let it sit on the lowest heat to steam dry for at least 15min.

3. Wash all the ingredients for the green bean topping. Dice 2 cloves of garlic, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and roughly cut the green beans. Add to a hot pan with some olive oil, salt, chili, lemon zest and lemon juice. cook for about 5-7 min. The beans should have a bite to them.

4. Serve in a bowl with the rice on bottom, then add the bij bij and top with the green beans. Serve with fresh herbs, yogurt and more lemon on the side


Simple RICE manifesto:

These are my rules:

  1. You need to wash your rice very thoroughly, until you get almost clear water! This way, you wash off any dirt or extra starch that makes your rice sticky... if you want fluffy rice, you CANNOT skip this step!!!!!
  2. I start with cold water and a good amount of salt (like you do with pasta water) i NEVER measure my rice and water in ratio! I've never learned it this way and I don't believe in this method! I want my rice to have some space to dance around and cook...

(again, like you would do with pasta water, you don't measure it...)

  1. I just stir and taste until the rice is al dente (basically the rice grain is almost fully cooked but still has a little!!! bite to it) then I will drain it and put it back into the the pod!
  2. I add my oil and/or spices and let it fully steam and cook through to finish!


Ira, posted November 2023


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