In this latest installment of “Drinking in Iran” — a photo-essay series documenting the tasty drinks (aka nooshidani) yours truly had to sip, gulp, swig, imbibe, taste, devour, knock back, or merely gaze at covetously during my sentimental, epic trip to Iran — I thought I’d show you some of the more eccentric libations and beverages.
Eccentric by the way does not mean weird or bad, just different. I mean: take a look at our featured cover drink. What was this concoction pray tell? I can tell you that making my very first solo foray in Tehran, I ended up walking up from Park ‘e Sayee all the way uptown and by the time I got to Vanak Square, I stopped dead in my tracks at the mesmerizing sight of this refreshment kiosk (pic below) with its whirling liquids and twirling floating orange and black seeds, and I had to have some.
The right-hand sign with the orange seeds reads: Premium Khak ‘e shir with rosewater. It is challenging to translate Khak e shir (which literally means “dust of milk” and is harvested from an annual herb that grows along the hills and mountains.) I’ve seen it translated as “grains of teff” to mugworth seeds to the intimidating sounding sisymbrium irio whatever that may be!.
The left sign reads: Premium tokhmeh sharbat with rosewater. Thankfully, tokhme shrabat (literally: “seeds of sharbat”) is very easy to translate into English because the little black seeds have become super popular in the West and they are none other than, wait for it: chia! Ta da! (ps I love chia seeds!)
Both Khak ‘e shir & chia seeds have long been used by Iranians to make tasty, thirst quenching sharbats that are popular and boast of medicinal benefits as well, but are ones that I personally did not grow up drinking very often or at all. But on my adventure-seeking and extremely sentimental first urban hike through Tehran, the city of my birth and childhood, I had to try the sharbat concoction made with a combo of both (it is equally customary to drink each individually or to mixed together.) Review: I greatly enjoyed nursing my vivacious drink (with its dancing seeds) while continuing on my path up north and got to amuse passersby as well by propping it hither and dither for close-up photo ops. Constructive crit: would have preferred it way less sweet & with less rosewater.
Continuing with the tale of somewhat unusual drinks, this was a tamarind juice (sharbat tambreh hendi) that I got to partake at the popular vegetarian cafe of the truly lovely Khaneh ‘ye Honarmandan, aka House of The Artists, which is an art compound in a park in Tehran. Verdict? I had never had a tamarind sharbat before and was excited to try it and had big expectations, but honestly, except for the thrill of novelty and a hint of a pleasant tang, this drink didn’t really do much for me. At least, not this particular iteration. Even so, it was fun to experience.
One of the most popular types of things to drink in Iran were none other than the good old ab ‘e miveh aka fruit juice.
At first glance there’s nothing unusual or eccentric about fruit juice but appearances can be deceiving.
In the first installment of this series, I waxed poetic about freshly squeezed pure pomegranate juice — the very elixir of life and joy! But of course, many other types of freshly squeezed or bottled fruit juices were abundant as well — everything from cantaloupe juice to juice of pear or apple or orange. Simple, humble, but never pedestrian. For example, what was cool at sundry fruit juice stands across the country was that even when it came to just getting an average ordinary fruit juice, like lets say apple juice. you’d still have the option of deciding between the juice of green apples, yellow apples or tart apples. A multiple choice pop quiz with only correct answers!
Plus there were some distinctly exotic options! Think: berberry juice (ab zereshk) or sour cherry juice (ab ‘e albaloo) or sweet lemon juice (ab limoo shirin.)
And let’s not forget the simple yet profound pleasure of fresh watermelon juice! Like these. Just heaven … almost as good and popular as fresh pomegranate juice!
But hands down the quirkiest drink I had in Iran (which I first detected while exploring the vast-hustling-bustling-stimulation-overload that was the Grand Bazaar of Tehran) was this totally unexpected kooky combo of fresh and frothy carrot juice with a big dollop of Persian ice cream.
Say what! The first glimpse of this drink actually made me gasp with surprise.
I could not conceive how this mixture could possibly be a good idea.
Before trying one for myself I asked this nice lady who had purchased one if it was any good. She informed me that: “Albateh! Khaily khobeh!” which roughly translates to: “Duh!” The nice lady then kindly and indulgently allowed me to snapshot her as she demonstrated enjoying her sweet treat. (She probably thought I was a harmless divooneh!)
Encouraged, I purchased and tried one of my own. And guess what? The wacky combo works! Freshly squeezed carrot juice with ice cream makes for an unexpected beverage that is delicious and indulgent, but what I liked most about it is that it’s a drink with a sense of humor, if that makes sense!
No wonder ob ‘e havij va bastani is popular in Iran. I want some now!
And with that, it’s a wrap for this installment. There are a few more posts left in the Drinking in Iran series that I’m looking forward to posting soon. Meanwhile, if you missed the earlier installments of the series, here are Drinking Fresh Pomegranate Juice in Iran; and Drinking Tea in Iran.)
Beep beep, that’s all for now folks. Please come back!