When it comes to food, I am a pretty easy to please guy. I like a lot of simple foods (hamburgers, pizza, pasta, etc.) 🙂 so I always feel at home with a variety of street foods on my trips. That doesn’t mean I don’t like some of the richer foods, but I can really just do anything.
In Iran, I found a lot of foods that I really did like. Some of the tastes were familiar from other trips in the Middle East while there were some introductions to food that I had not really experienced before.
One of the things I regret immensely was that some of the things I remembered taking pictures of during my trip somehow never made it back home to my computer. 🙁 I don’t know if I thought I took them and really didn’t or if something happened to the card. So, I regret not having photos of some of the types of food that I ate, though the photos I am including are pretty representative of much of what I ate during my trip.
My first introduction to an Iranian sweet was a type of ice cream (which is what my tour guide referred to it as) that I had never had before. It is actually called Faloodeh and is a noodle like substance. It is more of a starch that looks like it is strings of coconut. You then use a sugar flavored water (we had the option of pomegranate or lemon) to liberally douse the desert dish with. It was very sweet but was much better than I would have thought when I first looked at it. It cost only pennies for the bowls we got on the street in Shiraz (it is originally from Shiraz and dates back over 2,400 years). While not a desert that I would eat all the time, it was a nice, sweet bowl for our late afternoon snack.
The tour agency also gave me a box of Iranian sweets that was a harder candy. I saved it to have with my wife when I got home but it was not my most favorite food there. It was both sweet and full of spice at the same time and did not really please me as much as I would have hoped. Still, it was a very nice gesture on the part of the tour company to give me something so nicely boxed.
We ate at several places for lunch. Breakfast was provided as part of the hotel stays and lunch was provided as part of the tour. If we were driving, we would stop at a roadside restaurant for our lunch. Otherwise, in a city, we would go to the restaurant that the tour guide said was a favorite. I was very happy with all of the lunch food that we enjoyed for our midday meal. Traditionally, many meals are eaten on the ground or on surfaces that look like a bed minus the mattress. In its place is a Persian rug. You sit on it cross-legged and it is really not too bad! It can take a little getting used to, legs cramp up a little after sitting for a while. 🙂
The meals had one common denominator – rice. Rice is a very big part of their food and it comes in big heaps on every plate. It was mostly a white rice with the saffron-yellowed rice mixed in as well. The rice came with the plates of chicken and the lamb kababs.One of the things to note is that they drop a significant amount of butter on the rice dish! It definitely is not a low-calorie dish by any stretch, but it allows the rice to be a little sweeter and helps in case it has hardened too much.
It was pretty much a split of my lunches between having chicken or kababs. The rule seemed to be that our roadside stops were for chicken and restaurants in the cities were with the lamb kababs. The kabab dishes included the rice, kabab, and grilled tomatoes.
It was amazing to see how much we got for such a cheap price! Our roadside dishes would typically cost around $1.30 – and that was for the drink, chicken, and rice. I am not sure what our lunches cost as that was paid apart from me, but they said it was not much more than that.
The lamb kabab, or Chelo-Kabab, is the famous dish of Iran. We ate at two great restaurants in Tehran. The first was a small place that is normally packed but we had just beaten the lunch crowd. Our lamb kababs there were the largest kababs I have ever seen! It was a filling meal before I even ate half of the dish! If you like the taste of lamb, you will love these dishes. But, if not, stick with the chicken!
We ate at another restaurant for lunch one day and it was very packed. The kitchen was on the ground floor and they sent the platters up by food service elevator to the second floor, which is where most of the seating was. We were lucky to find just enough room for the three of us to squeeze in. I know that I did not take photos in this place as I did not really want to stand out as a big tourist – especially since I think I was the only American in the restaurant! But, that is how I like to eat on trips – I like to eat at places that are very popular with the locals. The rice here was a little different as it was very green tinted with lima beans. Still, very good. In addition to our kababs and rice, we also had another dish that came with a couple of our meals and that was Persian yogurt. It comes with cucumbers in it and many people dip their naan bread in the yogurt. It was tasty!
I saw so many areas on the highways will farmers selling fruit. The pomegranate piles were huge! They were at least 6 feet tall and many feed wide. The only fruit we stopped for was for grapes on our way from Persepolis. There were a lot of bees buzzing around! Our driver grabbed a bag and put the bunches of grapes in the bag with water and shook it up to rinse them. We ate them on the way to our next stop and they were pretty sweet!
The breakfast foods were great! My favorite breakfast came at the hotel I stayed at in Tehran (the Ferdowsi Grand). They had the fresh naam (a flat bread) that was cooked on the surface of their brick stove. That mixed with jellies, honey, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, eggs – it was all very fresh and great tasting!
As for dinners, the midday meal was large enough that I actually ate very little at night. I had a couple of salads and even tried their pizza. It was actually really good! They did a nice job of balance with the different elements of the pizza and did not spice it too much. And, it was cheap!
All in all, I enjoyed the food throughout the country that I got to have. I think I had more rice in one week than I have had in several weeks, but it was nice for a time. 🙂