Food and food-culture in Iran

Before we cycled into Iran from eastern Turkey, FIFTEEN people: friends and strangers bought us “food for two in Tehran” on our crowd-funding website. A total value of $300 AUD. Thank you.

We ended up spending over four weeks in Iran, two of those in the capital, Tehran. In that time we had some of the most amazing food experiences of our expedition. Everything I learned about food and food culture is dedicated to the people who sponsored us a meal and to those we shared a meal with in Iran. Here are the top seven food favorites:

1. Eating herbs, fresh and raw
On a side dish. On their own, not as a garnish, but to eat in-between mouthfuls of other bites. It is cleansing, fresh and healthy. I’m talking about a plate or bowl full of basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, etc. Try it. So good. 

2. Sweet mini cucumbers with salt  
Yes, these sweet cucumbers belong with the fruit. I was astonished to see my friends pick one up and bite into it like an apple – but when I tried it I could see why. mmm. 

Tofu kebabs and having dinners without booze
One of the great things about food in Tehran is the diversity, quality (vegetarian options : see list of Tehran’s selection in the note at the end) and social culture. 

It’s great to head out with friends or family for long dinners without alcohol required (less expensive too). 

4. Dried figs with nuts and “shaahtoot”
Meaning “the king of berries” The translation from Farsi is blackberry but the taste is so different! 

5. Osh
A dish from heaven for vegetarians.

This Persian vegetarian soup is rich no matter the variety of bases – eggplant, squash, lentil or other! We had the best Osh at our friend’s house in Tehran, but were delighted to find it served in local cafe’s too, here with friends in Mashhad.

6. Hot-from-the-oven flat bread
There is a subtle spiced flavour, we are not sure what it is – but we noticed it. One late afternoon we were cycling, hungry, not sure where / when to stop, when a dad and son drove past us on a motorbike with a pile of fresh hot flat breads. We looked over at them hungrily and the dad smiled. He reached over and handed us one and then sped off. Heaven! Here is some with spicy omelettes with tomatoes: 

7. Picnics
This salad was given by a kind man who set us up a picnic during ramadan. He saw us cycling and thought we might be hungry and so prepared us a picnic in the park of the next town we cycled to. One thing we noticed was that every town had at least one, if not more, large green parks which would be filled with families having picnics.

On the weekends families would camp out in the city parks too. The family atmosphere was very welcoming and created a sense of community. We shared picnics with families all across Iran and made many new friends. Here we are invited to the picnic of a family in Tabriz.

Cycling through Iran we have experienced the kindness and generosity of the people like no other in the world. We have been fed, housed and loved by people across the country, initially strangers and now dear friends. 

We have also been supported by people around the world and here currently in the USA. While I was in Wholefoods finishing this post, a stranger approached us, intrigued by the vivid and beautiful pictures she saw on our computer screens, these same ones you are looking at here. She was instantly so moved she contributed $100 to roll the project on. 

More and more as I talk to people and share our story, they are hungry not just for the great food recipes above but for healthy human narratives; of true stories of everyday people around the world. Not the vilified government and media (mis)representations, but stories of beauty and connections to people and places.

I hope that some misrepresentation can stop with our program and that more children will participate with us and make as many dear friends as we have across the oceans. What we have learned that we want to shout from our ‘virtual rooftops’ is that people the world over are wonderful. 

See for more information and contact us to initiate a global conversation.

We are glad that this project has fostered so many new positive Iran – USA relationships. And now this post can jump-start a series of food conversation between new formed friends. 

NOTE: Tehran vegetarian restaurants shared by Ali. 

“This one called Zamin (The Earth) is a small cozy place with some fantastic choices:

35.751528, 51.366507 – Google Maps

Ananda is fairly close to us and is another great choice … Ask for drink of the day:

Ananda Vegetarian Restaurant

This place is called Charmiz Pasta (four tables) there are literary only four tables, and an open kitchen. They only serve vegetarian and they have some traditional Iranian deserts:

35.701995, 51.412454 – Google Maps

Iranian Artists House also have a vegetarian restaurant where you can meet Iranian artists and celebrities there.”