Gentle reader, hello and welcome to part 4 of the Trip to Kermanshah series!
As you saw for yourself the other day when we strolled through the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah you can find everything there from shirini kermanshahi to gold jewelry to grizzly rows of severed cow’s heads (let us not speak of those yet or better yet never again!)
I omitted mention of the thriving farmer’s market bustling with all manners of fresh fruit and vegetables and herbs just outside and around the bazaar. Saving its tale for now.
Back tracking a bit, and as I pointed out recently, you may by now have noticed a pattern with Persians and their passionate penchant for unripe produce! Let’s just go ahead and call it an impetuous love affair!
To wit, we have unripe almonds (chaghaleh badoom چاقاله بادوم ), unripe green plums (gojeh sabz گوجه سبز), and just recently we made the tart yet invigoratingly pleasant acquaintance of unripe sour grapes (ghureh غوره) all of which are specimens of things not yet ripe yet beloved by Iranians and consumed with relish as either a fruit snack, or as a cherished culinary ingredient, or for its medicinal benefits, or for all of the above.
While writing about ghureh I did wonder if I were missing any other unripe fruits and vegetables that have sweet-talked their way into the Persian palette, and while writing this post I realized I’d forgotten about at least one more such instance.
During the tour of Kermanshah’s farmer’s market I came in close contact with mountain grown wild pistachios called vanooshk ونوشک and I was also tickled to find out about the nibbling possibilities of freshly harvested chickpeas!
Here’s what transpired:
I was walking and talking with my cousin Roshanak but out of the corner of my eyes I couldn’t help but notice this lady munching off what appeared to be torn off tree branches! WHAT!
Inquiring minds want to know and I played my tourist card and before my cousin could stop me, pounced on the poor woman and asked what she was nibbling on. As was wont of almost everyone I interacted with during my trip to Iran, the lady was super nice and friendly and warmly informed me that she was enjoying snacking on freshly picked green chickpeas or nokhod kham as we call it in Farsi.
[Aside: In the photo above please do note the presence of my nemesis, okra, piled on trays at the bottom and in the center of the photo. My father loves okra, particularly Persian okra stew (khoresh ‘e bamiyeh) but it’s the one thing I can not abide to eat in any way, shape or form.]
The freshly-harvested-chickpeas-snacking-nice-lady offered me to try some of the nokhod ‘e kham and I confess I was not shy enough to refuse and I heartily agreed to pick and munch. I no longer recall the precise taste but I do remember that the green chickpeas were kind of crunchy and overall: pleasant. Certainly a most intriguing way to snack!
Afterwards, my cousin Roshanak laughed and said “Vai, Azi jan, chera inkaro kardi? You shouldn’t eat unwashed things!” But you know what, I pretty much threw caution to the wind during my trip, or rather, I was not even conscious of the need to be cautious, to be honest. I ate and drank what was offered and was available or seemed novel, tempting or interesting and it was all good and I lived to tell the tales! And I do have a few fun tales left to tell in that regard!
Before leaving the bazar’s farmer’s market, Roshanak wanted to buy something. A little something called vanooshk!
Here’s a mound of vanooshk, piled high. It bears a striking resemblance to unripe sour grapes, n’est ce pas?
What is vanooshk? Well, it is the fruit of a tree called “baneh” that grows in the mountains of Iran. In Farsi, vanooshk is also known as wild pistachio or mountain pistachio. In English the tree is known as the Persian turpentine tree and if you want to get all Latin about it, the tree is called Pistacia atlantica.
To the best of my knowledge, vanooshk is not nibbled on raw, but is used to make everything from torshi (Persian pickles) to ash and abghoosht (thick hearty Persian soups) to khoresh (Persian stews.) At least, Kermanshahi folks do so. My visit was not long enough for me to taste any of these culinary marvels. Alas!
Gasp! What have we here? Do check out this gorgeous pile of fresh grape leaves as well! Oh my! These beauties! What I wouldn’t give to get my grubby hands on some right now to make dolmeh ‘ye barg ‘e mo دلمه برگ مو (stuffed grape leaves, Persian style.)
My cousin Roshank has a beautiful bagh (a term referring not to a farm per se but a piece of land, private garden, used strictly to grow fruits and vegetables) and before I left Kermanshah she made sure to give me a tote bag packed and filled with freshly picked grape leaves from the trees of her own bagh that I took with me to Tehran, as one of the many sweet and charming souvenirs of my trip to my father’s city of childhood.
Now for good measure, I present you with a short video below that captures just a minute of the escapades of the day …
And let’s end with this nice smiley vendor
… who was a little grumpy at first but hammed it up like a champ when I asked him to pose with a vanooshk bouquet. Damesh garm!
Back soon with the next installment of this Trip to Kermanshah series.