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!