Anthony Bourdain in Iran: 5 Spots Where Tony Ate
Despite its mixed reputation on the international stage, ask anyone who has been and they’ll tell you: Iran is a beautiful and beguiling destination. It’s no surprise that Anthony Bourdain was drawn to visit, during the pinnacle of his career and at a time when the prospect of visiting Iran was as much a logistical challenge as a social statement.
Anthony Bourdain visited Iran to film season 4 (episode 6) of Parts Unknown; it was his only visit to the country and was – at the time and still – lauded as an incredibly progressive moment for food and travel television.
If you’re considering a trip to Iran, there’s a lot to keep in mind – not the least of which is what to eat and where. Below you’ll find a list of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Iran, including a few private home meals he enjoyed. In each place, I’ve also shared what he ate, so you can seek these dishes out even if you don’t dine at the same places.
Ready to dig in? نوش جان! (Enjoy your meal!)
Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits Iran?
The Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
Tabbakhi Neshat (Tehran)
Like many places in the Middle East, sweet tea and bread play an important part in the breakfast routine of day-to-day life. Visiting this tea shop in the heart of Tehran, Bourdain also samples something a little more exotic for the first meal of the day – sheepshead stew.
Also known as kale pache, this stew is of the slow-cooked variety, with the sheep’s head, brain, and sometimes trotters, being seasoned with generous amounts of lemon and cinnamon.
Tony also tries one of Iran’s national dishes, chelow kabab. A variation on the traditional kebab found across the region, chelow is made up of ground lamb seasoned with garlic and onion, grilled over hot coals, then served with accompaniments such as butter, sumac powder, basil, onions, and grilled tomatoes, together with fluffy Persian saffron rice.
Dizi Restaurant (Tehran)
Following a trip to the beautiful and unique village of Durban, north of Tehran, to escape the heat, Bourdain dines with historian, writer, and food connoisseur, Farrokh Mostof at the Dizi Restaurant.
The restaurant takes its name from the dish Dizi, also known as Ābgoosht, which is a hearty mutton Persian soup. Usually made from lamb, this filling meal includes potatoes, white beans, and chickpeas, mashed together in the fat from the meat itself, and then generously seasoned with tomatoes, turmeric, and dried lime, all cooked together in an earthenware pot (also known as a dizi).
Private Home Meal (Tehran)
Tony next finds himself a guest at a private meal in a Tehrani home. Here he comes to learn that “Iranian people love guests and will never get tired if the guest likes the food”. Accordingly, he finds himself being served far more food than could ever reasonably be consumed.
The dishes include soup-e shir (milk soup made from chicken), fesenjān (stew of fried chicken, onions, ground walnuts, pomegranate, tomato paste, and dried apricot), ghalieh mahi (fish stew with a tamarind and herb sauce), khoresh (meat and bean stew), and tahdig. Tahdig, pronounced “tah-deeg,” literally means “bottom of the pot” in Persian, and is pan-fried Persian rice, laced with saffron and often scented with orange zest.
Haj Mahmoud Beryani (Isfahan)
Bourdain’s next stop is the city of Isfahan, south of the capital of Tehran. Here at the Haj Mahmoud Beryani, considered by many to be the oldest restaurant of its kind in the city, he tries the Iranian version of the classic biryani dish found the world over. This local variation is made with minced lamb shoulder, onion, turmeric, cinnamon, mint, and saffron, mixed together and over-baked, then served with bread.
Returning once again to the importance of bread in the country’s culture, Tony tries some fresh from a local bakery. Here the bread, known as sangak, is a traditional flatbread baked in an oven and served at breakfast together with haleem, a stew made from bulgar wheat, turkey, sugar, and cinnamon.
Private Home Meal (Tehran)
For his final stop on this journey to this exhilarating country, Tony is the guest of local gallery owner Nazila Noebashari at her home. Here again, the generosity of Iranian hosts is on fine display, as he is treated to slow-cooked lamb in yogurt, saffron, and egg yolks, sour cherry rice, meatballs, rice mixed with yogurt and saffron then baked into a crispy dome, and the gut-busting centerpiece koofteh Tabrizi.
Otherwise known as Tabriz meatballs (after the city of Tabriz where the dish was first created), this giant medley of beef, onion, and cooked rice, is stuffed with walnuts, dried apricot, boiled egg, and barberry, then baked in the over to crispy perfection. A suitably filling end to an exploration of a country that gives plenty of food for thought.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Iran and what he ate? Let me know in the comments below!