For my first and only full day of sightseeing in my paternal homeland, my awesome and adorable cousin Roshanak started off by taking me to the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah — a sight for saucer-sized eyes. Try as I might and even armed with digital equipments, there’s no way that I can truly translate and transcribe the experience and sights of the bazaars in Iran, but In this post, part 3 of the Trip to Kermanshah series, I’m going to show you some of the things I did see with my very own eyes that were nice and interesting and at times, wondrous.
Of course, what you’ll inevitably find in any bazaar in any city in Iran, be it ever so humble a market or so grand as to be Grand, are stalls after stalls of dried herbs and spices and advieh (Persian mixed spices.) All manners and diverse types of specially-mixed-combinations of spiced (advieh) for everything from making torshi to polo to soups to BBQ chicken. There’s something inherently mesmerizing about gazing at piles of colorful spices, don’t you find? It makes you want to dive into them and touch and inhale all of them!
Let’s go stroll through rest of the bazaar together, shall we? It’ll be fun and filled with marvels, I promise. Just make sure your scrolling finger is all pumped up and ready!
The best and most unique part of the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah was its deliciously aromatic pastry section …
… where bakers were busy making the various pastry doughs and crusts and fillings.
And where as is custom and a traditional marketing lure, passersby are offered a sample of the delicious fares. It’s hard to pass it by!
Nearly every city in Iran boasts of its very own special pastry and sweets. Kermanshah is justly famous and has bragging rights in this department as it lays claim to various types of unique and truly delicious pastries, collectively referred to as ‘shirini Kermanshahi” or “pastries from Kermanshah” but of course each specific type of pastry also has its own name and its own besotted fans. Time allowing, I’ll write a post waxing poetic about each of these pastries but for now let’s just gaze covetously at these wondrous creations of humanity.
What I can tell you right now is that some shirini Kermanshahi are soft, some are brittle, some are dry, some have fillings, some are speckled with sesame seeds or siyah dooneh (nigella seeds), some are crowned with nuts, some are stuffed with dates, and some are dusted with a fairy layer of ground pistachios or spun sugar.
All are nice and good and gladden the heart. All are perfect, but perfect, with چای.
Shirini Kermanshahi! Worth waiting for!
It was not just fun and shirini at the bazaar in Kermanshah. Let’s take a look at some other stuff:
Here’s my cousin Roshanak, digging through a canvas bag filled with dried camomile flowers. We call them babooneh and make tea with them, same as is done here in the West.
Camomile flowers grow wild all over the mountains of Kermanshah, as I saw for myself, one very fine day when I went mountain hiking at dawn with my wonderful cousin Mehran and his super duper awesome family. That story is going to have its very own post! So stay tuned!
Another fun section of any Iranian bazaar is its gem and jewelry section.Ranging from the inexpensive ersatz to posh and pricy objects of desire.
Rings, necklaces, medallions, bracelets, pins, you name it, made with all manners of glittering metals (gold and silver) and gems ranging from firouzeh (turquoise – a quintessential Persian stone and also popular name for girls, I myself have a lovely cousin Firouzeh) and aghigh (carnelian stone – very much a Persian stone and in some ways very much a bazari stone) to zomorod (emerald) and diamonds and you name it. I didn’t manage to take any good pix of the rows upon rows of tiny goldsmith shops and glittering jewelry stores lined next to each other but I did manage to snap this blurry shot below …
of a tired and bleary eyed vendor with his glittery somewhat gaudy faux jewelry wares.
Time to make our way to other stalls …
What do we have here? A tailor and his customer? A tailor with his assistant? A tailor with his spouse?
In any event: a tailor!
And here we have another tailor. A serious Kermanshahi tailor at work earning his honest daily bread who has no time for hyphenated or unhyphenated people’s goofy tomfoolery.
Look at that cocked eyebrow! If looks could kill I would have been a dead woman! Oy Vey!
Even in the hustle and bustle of a grand bazaar it’s possible to snatch a few minutes to take off one’s shoes and sit down and have an earnest tête a tête. But where’s their chai? How could these Iranian gents possibly concentrate and converse without dunking sugar cubes in hot estekans of tea and taking sugary fragrant sips? Didn’t they get the memo that while 65% of the human body is made of water that at least 50% of that is made of tea in a typical Persian human body? Tsk tsk tsk!
No longer tsking and speaking of tea no more but of tête still … these are cow heads. A grizzly scene that did not smell very good either. Suffice it to say that Roshanak and I did not linger. (I do confess to loving kaleh pacheh, however. A hypocrite I am.)
A decidedly less gory but definitely not banal corner of the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah had me stumbling upon balal بلال.
Balal is what we call Persian-style corn on the cob which is charcoal grilled then dipped in salt water and which is a much beloved street food.
For good and very easy directions to make your own balal, check Mystique Persia’s recipe. Also check out My Persian Kitchen’s stove top balal post which is a good read as well as a good stove-top balal recipe.
Just outside the perimeter of the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah were a bunch of little shops and whole sale vendors …
Like this wholesale store where they sold all types and manners of seeds, like watermelon seeds and sunflower seeds, what we collectively and generically refer to as “tokhmeh” in Farsi. Iranians love to munch on tokhmeh! Tokhmeh used to be a popular snack in movie theaters, so that when watching a movie, there was an inevitable sub soundtrack teek teek teek of seeds being cracked between various filmgoers’ teeth, a sound like an army of mutant subdued crickets. Ah! Memories!
Tokhmeh is sold roasted, salted, unsalted, spiced, shelled, unshelled, mixed with other nuts to form many types of ajeel (Persian trail mix) …. you catch my drift … it is widely consumed and popular. I also caught the drift when noting this guy’s glare. Another scolding scalding look that could maim or kill or scorch! Why so bad ‘akhlagh Mr. Shopkeeper dude? I was just photographing the seeds, as is my sacred food blogging duty.
A closer less hostile glance at the tokhmeh!
And look what I found fluttering in the breeze on the pavement next to the wholesale tokhmeh forooshi?
I don’t know which country’s football team this is but point is that football aka soccer is huge in Iran. HUGE!
And what have we here? A red Mercedes Benz truck with a sign in Persian that reads “delnavazan” which can be translated as “pleasing to the heart” (isn’t that endearing?) which I initially considered yet another sign of the inherent poetic nature of the Iranian soul but that I somehow or other (forget how) later realized is the name of an old and classic restaurant in Kermanshah. Let’s end our gingerly and hopefully somewhat entertaining and delnavaz stroll of the Grand Bazaar of Kermanshah by riding shotgun in this truck and going off for some adventures.
If you didn’t get your fill of the bazaar though no worries and no need to pout and stomp your feet and give me accusatory looks! I omitted mention of the bazaar’s outdoor fruit and vegetable market, saving that for tomorrow when we will hear the tales of vanooshk (wild mountain pistachio) and fresh chickpeas and have a close and mercifully brief encounter with my nemesis, the okra!
Until soon, have a heart-pleasing smooth day!
Ghorbanetoon, mokhlestoon, chakeretoon! 🙂