Iran’s Alternative to Persian Food

Persian cuisine is something to definitely be proud of. With dishes made with glorious saffron, to perfectly spiced stews and dishes cooked with pomegranates, the list goes on and on. In the UK in particular, Persian food is becoming more popular. With various well-known chefs cooking traditional Persian food and writing cookery books about the cuisine of the Middle East, the food of Iran is becoming somewhat known and is being considered as exotic. Biased as it sounds, but Persian food is my favourite type of cuisine and I very much look forward to it when planning a trip to Iran. The home-made food that is…

There are many what I would call odd foodie obsessions in Iran, like the ‘Iranian pizza’. I am currently living in Rome and even before I came to Italy, I knew that the pizza in Iran wasn’t great. It isn’t great in the sense that it is nothing like a traditional pizza. The base in Iran is thick and doughy and the pizza is layered in plastic-like cheese that doesn’t seem to melt properly. It is very different to the West. There is no mozzarella or tomato, but you are given a pile of tomato ketchup sachets to smother your pizza in, if you desire. One or two slices of this type of pizza and you are full. With toppings such as turkey hot dogs and layers of kebab, it is terribly un-Italian, and if anyone in Italy knew that this is what they called ‘pizza’ in Iran, they would be horrified.

It is not only pizza that Iranians seem to love to devour. It is fast-food in general, such as fried chicken and hamburgers, accompanied by other Western side dishes such as coleslaw and chips. The culture and craze of fast-food is just so popular in the country. You can see families and groups of friends gathered around eating fast-food, with it being particularly trendy with the younger generation. My cousins and I hardly ever go out to eat a traditional kebab together in the evening – it is fast-food.

The sandwiches in Iran are extremely popular too and are commonly something to order in at a birthday party. With layers of salami, lashes of mayonnaise and salty gherkins, I can’t help but wonder why fast-food is such a trend in Iran, especially when there is so much to Persian cuisine itself. I myself do enjoy the sandwiches in Iran, I have to admit, but the doughy pizzas, I’m not so sure about.

With US sanctions banning American fast-food companies from opening in Iran, locals are left to replicate this type of fast-food as best as they can. It is clear that Iranians are interested in eating the foods of the States and Europe, and they seem very happy to create their own spin on the pizza and call their restaurants ‘Italian’. This fast-food hype in Iran is something alternative to their own cuisine and has seemingly become a social event.

To be honest, the fast-food in Iran, particularly the sandwiches aren’t all that bad. It can actually be a nice change from rice once in a while. The locals of Iran do crave something different apart from an aubergine stew and stone baked bread once in a while, so I can let them off. To me Persian cuisine is something so desirable, and Iranians do think that themselves and are very proud of their food, but once in a while they just simply want a plate of chips and some ketchup.

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