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FOOD & DRINK

The good news for travelers

is that Iranian cuisine is superb. A wide range of influences from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe, and the Middle East have created a diverse, relatively healthy range of dishes that focus on fresh produce and aromatic herbs. It’s a safe bet that all food in Iran is halal and will conform to Islamic dietary laws as specified in the Qur’an.
Rice is the staple food and the Iranians cook it in style, eating it with wheat bread, yogurt, lamb, and aubergines. Typical Persian flavor is subtle, with cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, cardamom, and saffron all delicately blended. Garlic and lime also feature heavily. Kebabs served either in oven-fresh bread or with rice, tend to dominate menus, but there’s plenty more besides. Vegetarianism is uncommon, but visitors will often find meat-free options.
Fragrant rice (Berenj) is the staple of Iranian food. Boiled and then steamed, it is often colored with saffron or flavored with a variety of spices. When served plain as an accompaniment it is known as Chelo. The two most common meat / Chelo combinations are kebab variations (Chelo kabāb) or rotisserie chicken (Chelo Morgh). Flavored rice, known as polo, is often served as a main course or as an accompaniment to a meat dish. Examples include Shirin polo flavored with orange zest, young cherries and honey glazed carrots, the broad-bean and herb heavy bāghli polo and sabzi polo laced with parsley, dill, and mint.
At home people most often eat rice with a thick stew (khoresht) containing a modest amount of meat. There are dozens of khoresht variations such as the sweet and sour fessenjān made from ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, ghormeh-sabzi based on fresh herbs, dried limes, and kidney beans, gheimeh flavoured with split-peas and often garnished with French fries, and the sweet sib-āloo which uses apples and plums. Hearty Iranian soups (āsh) are meals in themselves. The most popular one is the vegetarian āsh reshteh made from herbs, chickpeas, and thick noodles, and garnished with yogurt and fried onions.
Flat bread (nān) is another pillar of Iranian food. It is served at breakfast with herbs, feta cheese and a variety of jams, or as an accompaniment to meals. Sangak is a dimpled variety cooked on a pebbled oven while lavāsh is a thin and bland staple.
Meal times in Iran vary considerably from those in Europe and North America. Lunch can be served 12:00-15:00 and dinner are often eaten after 20:00. As it is considered rude to refuse what is served, visitors should accept the items offered, even if they do not intend to consume them.
The consumption of alcohol is strictly banned. Penalties are severe. Religious minorities, however, are allowed to manufacture and consume alcohol, but not to sell or import it. Pork and pork products are forbidden and, like alcohol, their import is illegal. There are several good international restaurants which offer Chinese, Japanese, Italian and French food as well as vegetarian menus in Tehran and other major cities. Most food outlets in Iran are either kabābis or fast food outlets serving a standard fare of burgers, sandwiches, felafels or pizza.

DOOGH

Doogh is a sour drink made from yogurt, salt, and water (sometimes gaseous) and sometimes flavored with mint or other plants. It takes some getting used to but will rehydrate you quickly in the heat of Iran’s summer. It is the same as Turkish Ayran. Drinking alcohol is illegal for Muslims only, and if seen by police may be met with punishment. Therefore, you will not find any place in Iran that openly sells alcohol. However it is legal for Non-Muslims to produce alcohol for their consumption are extensive in Iran, and response times are very good compared to other local regions.
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Tea Houses

Many tea houses also serve traditional snacks and light meals. The most common of these is ābgusht a hot pot made from lamb, chickpeas and dried limes that are also known as Dizi, also the name of the dish in which it’s served. You will be given a bowl (the dizi) containing the ābgusht and another, smaller one. Drain the broth into the smaller bowl and eat it like a soup with the bread provided. Then pound the remaining meat and vegetables into a paste with the pestle provided and eat with even more bread, pieces raw onion and wads of fresh herbs.
Iranian Bbaghlava tends to be harder and more crystalline than its Turkish equivalent while the pistachio nougat called Gaz is an Isfahan specialty. Sohan is a rich pistachio brittle popular in Qom, and freshly-baked pastries are often taken as gifts to people’s houses. Lavāshak fruit leathers are delicious fruit leathers made from dried plums.
Honey-saffron and pistachio are just two local flavors of ice cream, while fāloodeh (فالوده) is a deliciously refreshing sorbet made fromrose waterr and vermicelli noodles made from starch, served with lashings of lemon juice.
Black tea (chāi) is the national drink of alcohol-free Iran. It is served strong and with crystallized or cubed sugar (ghand) which is held artfully between the teeth while tea is sipped through.
Lovers of coffee (ghahveh) have little to cheer in Iran but their choices have increased recently. Where available, it is served Turkish style, French coffee or espresso. Imported instant coffee (nescāffe) and instant Cappuccino are available also.
A wide variety of fruit juices (āb miveh) and drinks are available from shops and street vendors including cherry cordial (sharbat ālbāloo) and banana milkshakes (shir moz).
Soft drinks are widely available. International products such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and their brand names including 7up, Sprite, and Fanta have sold alongside local brands such as Zam Zam Cola ( Zam Zam Kola). The local cola has a taste not unlike “Coca-Cola Original” or “Pepsi Original”
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