Reshteh is the Persian word for "noodle." Originally, it was the only word in the language that was used to denote that type of food and did not describe a particular shape or recipe. There are several types of noodles that can be considered reshteh, including a very thin noodle not unlike angel hair pasta. In some dishes, it refers to a freshly made, wide, flat egg noodle. Many ancient and traditional Persian dishes are made using this noodle, especially ones that celebrate the Persian New Year.
The reshteh is produced in a similar way to any other pasta or noodle. It is a combination of either eggs or water and flour that is kneaded and rolled until long gluten strands are developed. The dough is then cut into whatever size and shape are desired and, if not being used right away, left to dry.
Before being used in a dish, the noodles are usually broken into smaller pieces. These pieces are fried until they begin to brown in the pan. The noodles can then be added to rice or the rest of the dish. This type of preparation, however, can be done only with freshly made noodles.
Reshteh poloh is the name of a popular dish that combines rice with roasted noodles. It is often served just before Norouz, the Persian New Year. This simple dish begins by roasting the noodles, which are then called reshteh poloee. They are cooked in water with the rice, along with dates and spices such as saffron, turmeric and cinnamon. The mixture is cooked slowly and served with sliced almonds sprinkled on top.
Ash reshteh is one of the most popular Persian dishes in some Middle Eastern countries. The dish is a thick soup, which is what "ash" means in Farsi. It is made with beans, dried meats, spices and noodles. The ingredients are combined and yogurt is sometimes added.
A special symbolic meaning is attached to reshteh when it is served to someone before a journey or before a change. The symbolism comes from the long shape of the noodles, which becomes representational of the reins on a horse. It symbolizes that the person is taking control of the reins of his or her life.
In Iranian cuisine, the noodles are often formed into thick, long strips so they are able to hold up to extended cooking times in soups and stews. The angel hair variety is used mainly in dishes that are drier. Reshteh can refer to any type of noodle, so there are many shapes and lengths available under this name.