I have to say, I am very lucky. I have wonderful friends who I can stay with all over the world and just recently, I’ve been in Tehran, staying with my lovely friend, Nasrine Faghih. I didn’t expect Tehran to be an easy city but thanks to Nasrine and a charming young friend of hers, Ali who was my guide while I was there, I actually had a great time. Ali took me to lots of different places, including the big bazaar which I didn’t actually like much. It is nowhere near as magical as the souks of Aleppo and I much preferred Tajrish, the small bazaar near Nasrine’s home, which was way more exciting. Still the big bazaar was fun, and definitely worth visiting if only for people watching.
But what was far more interesting was the little cook-shop (called tabbakhi in Persian) just outside the main entrance to the bazaar, on the other side of the street, specializing in lamb’s heads and tripe. Some of you may know that I can’t resist offal ( I did after all write The Fifth Quarter) and as soon as I spotted the heads soaking in a large tub of broth, I dragged Ali inside.
It was early in the morning and I was not hungry but the heads looked so white and clean that I had to try some. I asked for a small plate to taste (as against a whole head) and I have to admit that the meat was amazing, especially the part from around the eye sockets (on the right of the plate). Totally melting and absolutely delicious with no off-taste whatsoever. The tripe was another story. It definitely had an off-taste, a sign that it was not cleaned properly.
As we were savouring our choice morsels, I heard loud religious music, which despite being in Tehran, sounded incongruous. I looked up to see a long procession of bearded men chanting and beating their chest at regular intervals. I asked Ali what it was all about and he explained that it was a mourning ceremony for a Saint, a regular event in the city. It was not a morning for the squeamish!