Now to my last and favorite part of the food in Iran: the sweets. Ice cream in masses, glorious bites of frog-shaped pastries, and pieces of sweet nabat dipped in tea – just a few of the highlights of my trip. Here is more about my experiences with sweets in Iran!
Bastani (ice cream)
Ah, ice cream! My favorite thing in the world. Good thing that is something that Tehran and I have in common! Because the city is absolutely filled with little ice cream shops. My favorite part about the ice cream shops: the colored coconut flakes. Why don’t we have them?!
Anyhow. Iranian ice cream, bastani, is a must-have for any tourist visiting Iran. It comes in many flavors, as conventional as chocolate and vanilla and as unique as rosewater, and is usually served in a cup. It is somehow a bit more dry than other ice creams, giving a slightly more powdery feeling, and does not melt as quickly (which is a good thing considering the time needed to finish one of these giants!). Possible toppings usually include colored coconut flakes, nuts, fruits and syrup.
I had two extra noteworthy ice cream experiences in Iran:
- Majnona, in Tehran. This was an incredible ice cream, AND an incredibly large one! It was served with sweetened pineapple slices, cashew nuts, walnuts, pistachio nut powder, coconut flakes, slices of banana, syrup and chocolate sauce. Wow. Wow! Probably my favorite ice cream ever. I picked vanilla for the ice cream flavor, but there were plenty more to pick from. I still dream about this ice cream.
- Carrot smoothie and rosewater bastani float, in Bandar-e Anzali. I will probably never forget this ice cream. Although I was at first not entirely convinced by the carrot juice, it actually went extremely well with the rose flavored ice cream. And I absolutely loved the concept of an ice cream and fruit smoothie float! Plus, rose might just be the best ice cream flavor ever invented. Super delicious, and not as sweet as my other ice cream adventure.
Tehran is filled with them. Bakeries. Everywhere. Pastries, cakes, and cookies. Big chocolate mousse cakes, frog-inspired and cream filled muffins, pistachio topped cookies. In Tehran you can find basically any possible pastry, and with more fluffy cream and sweet chocolate syrup than you could ever imagine. All beyond delicious.
What I learned, however, is that sweets of this kind are rarely eaten. On a normal day or dinner invitation, fruit is served as dessert – and not cake or cookies. The only time that I had cake in Iran was during a very fancy dinner party, when pastries were brought along as gifts for the hosts, and eaten along with tea before dinner (resulting in chocolate cream pastries taking up more space in my stomach than the lamb stew).
Nabat (saffron flavored rock candy)
Nabat is probably the most famous sweet from Iran, and the most famous member of the rock candy family. This crystalized and saffron-flavored sugar is most commonly served as small rock pieces, although originally stuck together in beautiful chunks on a wooden stick. Nabat is usually eaten together with black tea, but is sometimes also eaten by itself as candy. Rock candy has existed in Iran since before the 9th century, and is still very popular today. It adds an interesting flavor to black tea, and is a great variation from the usual sugar cubes.
Other common sweets in Iran are the sour fruit toffees. They come in many flavors, such as apricot, cherry and plum, and can be eaten with a spoon from a cup or as little packaged sweets. They are a very flavorful combination of sour and sweet, and although I did not enjoy them much the first time, I soon learned to love them (especially the apricot ones). Be prepared for eyebrow-raising sourness!
All photos taken by me on an iPhone.
Next in the Food in Iran series: a bonus post on the drinks of Iran.