Eating My Way in Tehran | A Partial, Lusty Tour of the Food I’ve Eaten in Iran
This is a lunch I had by myself at a tiny kabab and halim establishment. I got a window seat decorated with the Norooz trappings of sabzeh and goldfish and hyacinth and ordered the Kabab that came with grilled tomatoes nestled inside two generously sized, soft and stretchy layers of freshly-baked-on-the-premise taftoon bread. What a luxury! I also had yogurt – a “whole fat” one – that really hit the spot. I pretty much ate this entire meal with my fingers: tearing off pieces of bread, making a sandwich with a piece of kabab then adding a dollop of whole fat yogurt. So satisfactory. So yummy. I was very hungry and this food was very tasty and I confess I polished most of it off. You can’t say you blame me.
Shortly after my arrival, my friends took me on a day trip to Lavassan – a mountainous region to the north and just outside of Tehran – where people go for skiing in winter, and for horseback riding and hiking and the fresh mountain air in the summer. For lunch, we had the most delicious abghusht dizi in a restaurant famed for this classic Iranian dish (but I’m saving the pix for its own separate post) and then we drove around feasting our eyes on the beauty of the road and the mountains and toured the outrageously expensive mountain top villas (we’re talking several million dollars and up) in the region. On our way back, my friends bought a big bunch of freshly picked celery from this young boy and his father – it ended up making for a tasty celery stew with enough left over to last us through numerous dinner salads and proved to be crisp, tender, and very tasty.
This is kaleh pacheh and it was my very first meal in Tehran. I arrived at the airport at 4:30 a.m. My uncle and a cousin picked me up. Dawn was breaking out as we approached the outskirts of Tehran. My uncle said: “Would you like to have kaleh pacheh for breakfast?” I enthusiastically excalimed: “Would I!” If you don’t know what kaleh pacheh is, I’m not sure I want to tell you just yet. I can tell you that it is a traditional (albeit extremely occasional) early breakfast and that it was a fun way to start my trip. We chased it down with some tea and lemon.
That same day, after taking a jet-lag nap, I woke up to be greeted by the sight of this take-out deliciousness for lunch — courtesy of my friend. And if you think this cholo kabab spread is sinful, wait till I tell you that for dinner we had jujeh kabab (grilled chicken) and rice! Yes my friends, my first day in Tehran started with Kaleh Pacheh, followed by cholo kabab, and ending with jujeh kabab. Somehow, I still fit in my jeans though. Glory be and hallejlujah!
A few days before Norooz I was invited to lunch by a very dear relative. The snapshot does not do the festive spread justice. It was fava bean rice with meat (baghali polo va gusht) served with torshi (Persian pickles) and tadig and accompanied with salad and a bowl of cucumber yogurt beautifully decorated with dried mint and crushed rose petals. Super delicious! Nearly as delicious as the company.
For the Norooz countdown and celebration I was invited to my friend’s family party. There was dancing and cheering as we did the countdown to the moment winter ended and spring began and then afterwards we sat down to a very traditional new year dinner of sabzi polo va mahi (fresh herb rice with fish.) There were 3 different types of fish served. Smoked (which is salty and is meant more as mazeh for taste instead of being a main course); a type of fish we call “white fish” which is the super traditional offering; and also a very tasty fish called “halva” which is favored by the people in the southern regions of Iran. Instead of lemons, we had halved bergamots (narenj) to press and season the fish – one of my favorite things about the meal. There was also tadig (of course!) and salad and an assortment of homemade Persian relish and pickles, including torshi ‘eh anbeh (mango relish) and piyaz torshi (small pickled onions.) A yummy way to begin the new year.
And for dessert we had bastani akbar mashdi (old fashioned Persian ice cream) with faloodeh (thin stretchy dessert noodles) – an amazingly delicious combo and an incredibly rare treat for me. We also had blood oranges and a birthday cake … and of course: tea!
Here’s my friend’s cousin preparing to serve the fresh herb rice we had for Norooz dinner. I have barely begun to scratch the surface of my lusty food tour of Iran but let’s end on this peppy note with a promise to cheerfully dole out more in the posts to come.
Khoda Hafez and happy weekend y’all!