Monday, June 20, 2011

Two Special Lunches

Abgusht in Jolfa
After visiting an Armenian Christian Church north of Jolfa, very close to the border of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan, we went to a special tea house for lunch. They specialize in a soup which is very easy to prepare in their tiny kitchen and just delicious. It is call abgusht.

First thing in the morning, the owner fills mug-sized metal containers with lids with a combination of lamb, a potato, a tomato, garbanzo beans, and onions, some water, and I assume some salt.
The containers are set in a metal box with a lid over a low flame and cook for 4 or 5 hours until the ingredients are soft, the broth is tasty and it’s time for lunch.

Containers with metal bowls, bread, a pounding device, fresh onions and chiles are brought to the table.

To eat it, you pour the broth into the bowl and add bread and fresh onions, if you'd like. That’s the first course.
Next you pour the vegetables and meat into your metal bowl and pound it with the plunger-like thing until everything is all mushed together.
You eat that mixture with more fresh onions and green chiles. I realize it doesn't look all that appetizing but believe me it is totally splendid and so fun to eat.

Visit to a Restaurant Kitchen

After visiting the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth imam of Shi'a Muslims, in Mashhad, we took the bus out into the countryside for lunch at a place that specialized in lamb chop kebabs. They were just delicious. I asked Reza, our guide, if I might visit the kitchen. We had to wait until lunch service was over—the restaurant had been packed with customers—to venture down into the basement kitchens. The head chef showed me around as Reza translated. Just look at that face.

The cooks marinating the lamb and threading them onto flat skewers for the dinner service.

The chef who makes all the salads.

The pastry chef. Why are so many pastry chefs women? Michelle, do you have an answer? (Michelle is my daughter-in-law who is the pastry chef at Range in San Francisco.)

The giant pots for cooking rice and the area behind the pots where the grilling takes place.

A dish sterilizing device of which the head chef seemed particularly proud. Once washed, the dishes move on to a conveyor belt which takes them through the sterilizing process involving a high temperature.

I don't know why I get such a kick out of seeing restaurant kitchens around the world. But I do. Thanks to Reza, I got to see one in Iran.

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