What every vegan should know about Iran
Before each trip, I’m afraid about my diet. Actually, it’s not about not having anything to eat because bread and tomato must be everywhere. My main fear is, paradoxically, people’s hospitality. Luckily in case of travelling through Europe there is no threat, nobody is going to feed you anyway 🙂 but if you decide going to Iran than you should get prepared.
Before going to the Caucasus I hadn’t had the idea what hospitality really meant. Sadly, I have to admit: there is practically no hospitality in here. Of course, the exception confirms the rule so anybody who can easily point out examples of European hospitality is my idol. Nevertheless, from my experience, and still under the influence of Magic Caucasian Hospitality, I cannot find it in the Poles. But never mind. If you’re going to Iran than you should beware. Even though meat is one of those ingredients which not necessarily will be find on every Iranian table since it’s rather expensive, if you’re a guest you should definitely expect its presence – in this case it is a must! Falafel, lentil soup, rice with vegetables, all the dishes desired by a vegan traveller will not be even offered to a guest since they are considered to be „food for the poor”. So try to explain you don’t eat meat and you will eat that salad with relish. That is a challange! The best way to avoid unpleasent situations may be this kind of innocent deception: „I’m allergic”, „it’s forbidden by my doctor”. Although it is another tough nut to crack, in particular, when your travelmates are vegan as well. 😉 Another thing you can do is shifting the responsability on your religion. The best day for this seems to be Friday. You can use the word halal, which is something accepted by the religion (according to Wikipedia it is sth permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law), If something is not halal than we are not permitted to eat it, in other words lentils are halal, meat is not halal. Anyway, don’t expect to be understood. It’s like everywhere. Somebody will grasp the idea and accept it, another one will consider you a freak.
Now, to the point. What actually can I eat in Iran? In fact, plenty of things. Thanks to a friend from Tehran I’ve managed to create a list of dishes which are vegan by default. Unfortunately, while ordering them, there might be a necessity to say something more, which can turn out to be problematic…
baghali polo (rice with beans, usually served with meat but can be ordered without – berdoon gusht)
sabsi polo (rice with herbs, usually served with fish but can be ordered without – berdoon mahi)
ash reshte (thick soup with beans, herbs and pasta – watch out, they wanted to add some cream to mine but they add it already to the plate)
adasi (beans soup)
lobia (lentil soup)
zeitoon parvade (spread made of olives, herbs, walnuts and pomegranate)
moraba (kind of jam)
falafel (famous delicacy of Lebanese cuisine, it can be found almost everywhere, for an amazing price – you pay around 3.000 tumans, they give you bread and you can take as many falafels and salads as you wish)
soya spaghetti – (very popular dish which the majority of Iranians will offer you as soon as they will find out you don’t eat meat)
sabsi samosa (dumpling with veggies)
What I really adore about Iran are places where you can drink freshly squeezed juices. You can choose from many flavours. My favourite ones are pomegranate and green melon juices. You have to be careful since they may add sugar sometimes. The best way to avoid it is watching them making them. There are also juiceries specialized in pomegranate where they serve 3 flavours of juices: sweet, mixed and bitter. The taste depends on the sort of pomegranate. You can easily fall head over heels for pomegranates.
With such a variety of tasty fruits there is no craving for sweets but if I had to suggest a dessert I would definitely go for falude – Iranian ice-creams. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with ice-creams, it is frozen pasta with different flavours. I stumbled upon saffron and sour cherry tastes and probably the most popular one which is served with lime juice. The last version seems to be the most reasonable since falude is extremely sweet. With sour cherry is not that bad either. The saffron one is too much I guess. 🙂 Other desserts are halva and something similar to Turkish delight. I found Iranian Azerbaijan more sweet-oriented thus it has a lot in common with Turkey. My number one is gheresare. I don’t know what it is, neither what the real name of this this is but I just love it! As I was informed by a friend of mine gheresare is the green powder which the sweet is covered with but I have no idea how to translate it into English. In any case, gheresare can be found at Tabriz bazaar and it’s the best thing I have ever tried in my life!
I WAS IN IRAN IN SEPT/OCT 2015
GRAPHICS THANKS TO: