The Iranian shopkeeper near to our Tehran apartment often hear me saying “Morq…morq….” and he would laugh. Morq is one of the few Persian words that I know to communicate when we are hunting for our sundry for a cookout at the apartment. By the way, Morq means chicken in Farsi and one need to know this so that one doesn’t end up getting beef or mutton or unknown meat for food.
Language is a big, big problem when it comes to ordering food here in Tehran especially if you are talking to the locals in English.
The good thing, however, is that some of the newer ‘fast food’ restaurants near our place have a menu in English (some with broken English but we can make out the menu items) and the young guy at the counter has some idea on what we wanted to order. The problem comes when asking what kind of meat used – even the local Iranians have a problem letting us know what type of meat used in the food.
I guess before us coming over, the locals had no problem with the issue of halal & non-halal. Finding out some of us don’t eat beef was an eye-opener to some of the Iranians.
Sometimes meat stands for beef or mutton or in the usual case, a mixture of beef and mutton. We, therefore, take the safe side and just order chicken or salmon (pronounced as just fish here in Tehran). Soft drinks especially American brands (like Coke, Sprite, etc) surprisingly are plentiful on all restaurants (so is non-alcoholic drinks imported from Germany!!).
For lunch, we usually avoid fast food (pizza or fried chicken) and go for real Persian cuisine – usually rice and kebab. Their rice itself is good enough to be eaten on its own. Lunch is usually accompanied by semi fried tomatoes (which we use the juices as gravy) and plain yoghurt.
One thing about the yoghurts here is that majority of it is of original plain taste (unlike in Malaysia where we can get the fruit flavoured versions). So it does take some ‘fear factor’ alike guts to finish a small bowl of plain yoghurt. If one likes, one can also order a bowl of salad as a side dish. Personally I had no issues with yoghurt (used to eat plain ones back in Malaysia) and I was more than happy to get extra yoghurts from my team members who not used to it.
Breakfast usually comes in the form of a small cake or bread and tea or tetra-packed fruit juice. Tea is usually provided free-flow in the mornings and evenings. Very rarely we see people drinking coffee here. When we pass by a bakery shop in the mornings, we usually see a long line of people waiting to buy their local bread known as barbari (huge thin bread with drips of sugar on it). To avoid the long queues in the morning, we usually buy our loaves of bread from the various sundry shops or bakery shops at night.
So if one compares to Malaysian food to Iranian food, it looks healthier although one cannot compare the taste between the 2. We for one missed spicy food, soup and heavy breakfast in the form of nasi lemak or mee goreng. But since we usually walk 1 – 2 kilometres on an almost daily basis to look for restaurants and sometimes find interesting places to dine in, we are in a way also exercising our appetites before we order our food. I guess it is a blessing in disguise.
Photos – Lunch with chicken gravy or coloured rice with lemon juice
(To be continued)