Drinking in Iran | Gulp!

 

It is a truth universally established by now that Persian food is yummy! No doubt! But what about Persian drinks?

I can tell you this: as much as I drooled over the bounty of yummy food during my epic trip to Iran, it was the discovery (and re-discovery) of alluring Persian beverages that constantly knocked me over. In a good way!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised since Iran is after all the birthplace of sharbat (enchanting syrup-based drinks) and the Persian word for beverage — nooshidani — has its roots in the word ‘noosh’ which means ‘pleasure’ in Farsi. Believe it or not, pleasure aplenty is afoot when it comes to Iranian beverages. Drinking alcohol in Iran is now prohibited of course but a decadently pleasing time can be had by imbibing on a bevy of non-alcoholic drinks that make up for their sobriety with an intoxicating punch of taste, color, and at times charming novelty. Some of them even kick in demonstrable health benefits into the bargain as well!

In a back-to-back series of short and sweet posts I want to take you on a photo-essay journey of my odyssey of drinking in Iran – taking a look at some of the tasty drinks yours truly had to sip, gulp, swig, imbibe, taste, devour, knock back, taste, or merely gaze at covetously during my sentimental voyage.  Wouldn’t that be fun? I promise you it will be! It’ll also be a chance to share some stories with you and offer a glimpse of real life Iranian people in action! (Look at them smiling!)

To kick-off the series, let’s start with the nooshidani (beverage) that gave me unadulterated brimming with antioxidants noosh (joy!)  Pure  JOY I tell you! And that was:

Ob ‘eh Anar (Freshly Squeezed Pomegranate Juice)

Persians have an ancient love affair with pomegranates. We eat it, juice it, ab lamboo squeeze it, and utilize it every which way in our cuisine (paste, molasses, seeds, juice, garnish.)

Not surprisingly pomegranates are a shorthand icon of Persian identity and a prevalent and revered motif and symbol in Iranian folklore, art and architecture.

Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice was available at any ol’ juice-stand — as prevalent as spotting a Starbucks in the U.S. — all across the country, but I was interested to discover the new (to me) trend of kiosk establishments in Tehran devoted exclusively to a pomegranate-based (daringly inventive) menu of awesome sweets and drinks.

It was at one of these stands that the awesome smiley dude (cover photo above) made me a pomegranate juice with lavashak (fruit-based roll ups) that was just … sublime.

The snapshot (above) of the lovely young Iranian woman was at another of these pomegranate kiosks (just off of the Vali Asr, formerly Pahlavi Avenue in Tehran.)

God, I miss those kiosks! I’m convinced if someone started a similar type of pomegranate-based stands in New York, they’d make out like bandits. I’d do it, except: who has the time? Feel free though to steal this idea! (Just give me a royalty of a lifetime supply of fresh pom juice!)

I may as well tell the story of this father and son as well. One of my friends and her husband invited me to check out a flea market (not the major Friday Flea Market, but a pop up Norooz holiday market put together adjacent to one of the art museums) in Tehran and while we were browsing, we came upon this refreshment stand, owned and operated by a jovial father and son, who humored us by laughing at our lame jokes and served the best ob ‘e anar I had during my entire trip.

In sum: I drooled and gorged on an enviable, ecstatic array of delicious Persian food during my trip but was at my most giddiest when gulping down freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. I did so every chance I got and every single time, it felt like an invigorating shot of happiness filling me with vitality and goodwill towards myself and mankind. If there ever was an elixir, surely this was (is) it?

As one of my school chums concurred on Facebook: pomegranate juice is magic!

And as Yvonne Joon said: pomegranate juice never tastes as good as it does in Iran.

And thus concludes the first part of our “Drinking in Iran” series. I hope you found it even a fraction as invigorating as drinking ob ‘e anar and hope you’ll tag along for the next juicy installation in a few days.

ps If this post has given you a yen for enjoying a pomegranate, check out: How to Eat a Pomegranate, Persian Style!; or: how to ab lamboo squeeze a pomegranate Persian Style (it’s fun!), or, check out the Pomegranate Cliff notes!

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Comments (29)

  • Pamela Fadai-Fouladi 5 years ago Reply

    I drank ab ‘e anar ten years ago on my first visit to Iran – amazing! They sprinkled it with some powder (can’t remember what it was called) but I still dream of the taste. No commercially-produced pomegranate juice gets even close because they all have additional juice: Apple or something.
    Ab ‘e Anar is just pure juice.

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    YES, exactly! By the way, that powder must have been ground angelica (‘golpar’) which traditionally is sprinkled over the arils but I didn’t have it sprinkled over the drinks.
    Thank you for sharing your story, Pamela jaan! 🙂

  • Laila 5 years ago Reply

    Your post makes me homesick for Iran but also my mother. Thank you for the lovely images and descriptions – my mouth is watering 🙂

  • wanderingcows 5 years ago Reply

    Gosh, you make me want to go out and buy pomegranate juice … but I know that the stuff in the carton at the supermarket will not be anywhere near as good as the fresh juices you’ve mentioned !

  • Oh my! My mouth just dropped to my keyboard. We juice our own pomegranates and it is sublime. How heavenly to walk around town and have freshly squeezed pomegranate at your finger tips!

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    It’s a natural high, isn’t it, Laura joon? xo

  • Bonnie Eng 5 years ago Reply

    Ahh, the ruby red color is sooo enticing! I am thirsty now!! 🙂

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    the color is amaZING! agree 😀

  • Mary Frances 5 years ago Reply

    WOW, those pomegranates are HUGE! The juice must be amazing.

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    seriously, it’s one thing to talk about it and it’s another to taste it. Hope you get to taste the real McCoy one day! So GOOD!

  • Stefano 5 years ago Reply

    A very nice and educational post, dear Azita. I love pomegranates and would be excited at the idea of sipping their juice, perhaps on a hot day – sounds pleasantly refreshing!
    Having said that, and as much as I like fruit in general and pomegranates in particular, I could not possibly see myself in any country (or State for that matter!) where alcohol is prohibited! 😉

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    Ha ha, I hear you, specially in light of your expertise and interest in wine, but trust me, you could spend a magical month in Iran and it will be enchanting you won’t miss the le vino. Plus … there are ways around the … hmmm, nevermind 😉

  • Dear Azita, what an amazing post, makes me homesick to a country I haven’t been there yet, if that makes sense to you at all, but it does to me. Pomegranates are the most beautiful fruits and I see the shape of pomegranates all over the architecture in Iran, in Mosques and interior of historic buildings, that is so amazing to me. As I had learned how to enjoy the juice of it as the most is at follows…..take a pomegranate and squeeze it all around it’s entire body, love the cracking noise, once it becomes softer as you squeeze it, than poke a tiny hole in it’s skin and just suck out the juice like a baby would suck on it’s bottle. That juice is just heavenly. Noosh e jan as a Persian would say.

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    I totally know what you mean Corenlia joon! You just have an affinity for the lovely land of Iran, ha ha. And that pomegranate technique you described is one of my favorites, called “ab lamboo” I actually have a post of it with my little darling nephew demonstrating it. He ended up loving the technique by the way!
    Hope there’ll be lots of heavenly pomegranate juice in your future. (I do hold out hope that one day we’ll travel in Iran together! :))

  • Francesca 5 years ago Reply

    Hello there! It is kind of getting popular in Italy too meaning that you can find a commercial version of it in some supermarkets! And that’s what I have tried. However, freshly juiced must be gods’ nectar!

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    It is kind indescribably invigorating and good. It really felt like a shot of something potent! ps Ciao caro Francesca! boos boos

  • What a beautiful posts. I really love your illustrations of Iran through pictures and words. Pomegranates really are magical. I kind of want some of that juice now.

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    Pomegranate juice for all! In Utopia! 🙂
    xo

  • […] samovar and brew some fragrant tea (or chayee as we say in Farsi) for this second installment of “Drinking in Iran” — a photo-essay series that documents some of the tasty drinks aka nooshidani yours truly […]

  • Sharareh 5 years ago Reply

    Oh lovely pomegranates! You’re touching a nerve in me. I can get really crazy about pomegranates. They’re my favorite fruit but I refuse to eat any but the Iranian ones. As since I’ve tasted them there, no anar from anywhere else can live up. The Iranian ones are so rich, velvety and flavorful, the juice dark and tart, the seeds teeny tiny… sigh… Also the vendors use exact the right juicers so no rind flavor seeps in… and their lavashak!!! so so good, I can’t!!!
    Now that I look closer at that pic with the nice girl, I might have gotten my daily ratio of juice at the same spot when I was in Tehran, too.

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    Oh Sharareh joon, you articulate your passion for Persian pomegranates so beautifully! Next time I mention anar on the blog I hope to have the presence of mind to quote you! And you’re right, the juicers know precisely how to juice it perfectly.
    How funny that’s the stand you frequented. An Instagram friend said the same – that it was her haunt too!
    And oh boy, don’t even mention the lavashak. dahanm ob oftad! 😉

    Sharareh 5 years ago

    Oh yes, feel free to use any words of me as you like! 🙂 xoxo

  • MyKabulKitchen 5 years ago Reply

    I love the stories you share from your trip!! The pictures of the pomegranate is beautiful! Fresh anar juice sounds heavenly, my favorite fruit, being girly I love the beautiful gem like anar seeds and the tart/sweet taste 🙂

  • Connie 5 years ago Reply

    I was in Iran last month and had freshly squeezed pomegranate juice at a stand right outside the Tehran Bazaar. It was inexpensive, delicious and I felt so good after drinking it! Truly a feel good elixir. I am now spoiled for any pomegranate juice that I can get here in the US. Sigh….

    Fig & Quince 5 years ago Reply

    it really IS something else, isn’t it? Me too: sigh!

  • […] this latest installment of  “Drinking in Iran” — a photo-essay series documenting the tasty drinks (aka nooshidani) yours truly had to sip, […]

  • sarvenaz 5 years ago Reply

    hum ! mikhorammmmmm

  • […] Hourani, the creative Iranian blogger behind Fig & Quince, chronicles some of the flavorful, unique drinks that can be found in Iran. Though she now lives in the United States, on her trips back to Iran, […]

  • […] Here are a few photos from that day — followed by a recipe for a beverage that might be yet another Persian elixir! […]

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