So…Korea…clip that noise. After thinking long and hard about how much I loathed last nights’ supper, and after trying unsuccessfully to find powdered corn cobs with which I might produce the delicious North Korean bounty (of husk dust and sadness), I decided to take the blog in a different direction. Instead of writing about North Korea each day this week, I am instead going to take you on a week-long culinary journey through several different countries that have pissed me off recently.
Yesterday’s country was North Korea. North Korea really, really pisses me off. And their food is gag-making.
Today’s country is Iran, and is brought to you by the letter “گل” and the number “۳”
And man, has Iran pissed me off lately. Their political system is completely jacked up, with an angry mustachioed president yelling to and fro about exterminating Israel, while a strange cleric stands like a hologram in the background wearing a cloak and hood and facemask that alters his voice…wait, that’s Darth Vader. But Ali Khamenei is similar. Both definitely Siths. Anyway, he gets to stand in the background and call the shots and yell at people for being unholy. At least, that’s how I picture it.
Now recently I will concede that ol’ Mahmoud has been minding his ‘p’s and ‘q’s a little bit better. He’s at least been “dialoguing” with Obama, even if it’s at a very rudimentary level (“Okay, Mahmoud. I hear what you’re saying. Now here are some crayons, I want you to draw us a picture of your feelings”). And I appreciate the effort. Allah only knows what Darth Khamenei has been doing while these fun therapy sessions have been taking place.
But then all of a sudden it’s election day and all hell breaks loose. I’m not sure who’s at fault here. It could be that the election was rigged, it could be that there are still more stuffy old folk than young, YouTube-posting Iranian hipsters making it to the elections. Either way, I’m a touch jihadified (new-farsi for “pissed off”) that the opposition leader decided to incite riots, and also approaching annoyed that Ahmadinner and Khemenewanaleia decided to put the literal smack down on their people.
The saving grace of this whole thing is that I think it’s HILARIOUS that the young Iranians are using such mediums as Twitter to express their displeasure. HA. Young people like technology, and I’m hoping that western-style access will prove an adequate bribe for good behavior in coming years.
The question here, though, is do Iranians have any right to be angry? Does their cuisine warrant the kind of fist-throwing tantrums that can be caused by North Korean cuisine? We shall see…
I had to do some research, which consisted of me traveling across town and across visible economic…striations to a middle-eastern mart called “Ali-Baba Market.” Strangely my Honda had this pre-programmed into its nav system. I pulled up and went inside and noticed immediately that the happy hubbub had given way to a new, quiet-but-quick undercurrent of murmuring. I looked around at the men in their Western-style clothes and the women in their tunics and head scarves and realized that perhaps they were less than thrilled with my running shorts (which are admittedly obscenely short, but that’s only for comfort and ease of movement). Dammit. Oh well, nothing I could do to fix it.
Then I had a field day looking through the aisles. It was just like Asia-mart, only there were way more unfamiliar groceries to peruse. I am getting a lot more comfortable with Asian groceries, and am starting to recognize them more and more as I incorporate them into my foods. But middle-eastern? Whole new ballgame. I picked up a few interesting little tidbits, realized I was being followed suspiciously by an angry looking man with dark circles around his eyes, then ran to the front and paid as quickly as possible. I was super-polite and avoided eye contact, and I didn’t say “Hey beard guy! Are these little brown wheat-looking balls Iranian or some other variety of middle-eastern? I can’t read your squiggle letters.”
At home, I came up with a three-stage meal of very Iranian dishes.
-Salad shirazi is damned good. It’s just thinly sliced cucumbers, sweet grape tomatoes, a small sweet onion, lime juice, olive oil, s&p;, and dried mint. Yes, dried. It’s what they use. It’s all tossed together for an hour or two to marinate, then served as is. And it’s hella-tasty.
-As best I can tell polow is the same thing as pilaf. Or what we translated to pilaf, being dumb Americans. It’s got a fairly involved cooking method, though, which makes a golden and delicious crust at the bottom of the pan. This crust (called a tadig or tadiq) is then served overtop the pilaf like a little lid. It’s fought over by Iranian guests as being the most delectable part of the meal. Ours turned out perfectly, and rested on a bed of saffron-scented rice, studded with golden raisins and pistachios. It was a big tadiq (that’s what SHE said), though, so we didn’t have to fight.
-This is your basic beef/lamb kebab. It’s flavored with garlic, turmeric, onions, and bound with an egg. Under the broiler for a few minutes, since our gas grill makes an ominous hissing noise when turned on, and it came out incredibly tender and delicious.
So here’s my thought for Iran–You people have NO BUSINESS being so unruly. Your food is incredible and you get to put saffron in everything. Stop bickering, and just make some extra batches of polow so everyone gets a tadiq, a-ight? Damn.