Sunday, February 20, 2011

Persian food! In Taipei! Yum!

Persian Heaven
Corner of Nanjing and Guangfu Roads (southeast side)

We ate at Persian Heaven today, after both of us passed it on buses (at two different times) and made a note to the effect of "we have to eat there!" (Only later did I realize it was reviewed by the Taipei Times in 2010). Persian food in Taipei? I'm there!

As someone of Armenian descent alongside the Polish, the food of my mother's family resembles Iranian food in a lot of important ways - especially where kebabs are concerned (my mother's family also used to apparently have a house in Iran before they got kicked out of Turkey in 1915-1922 - we're not sure whatever happened to that).

With this culinary knowledge, I used to cook all sorts of delicacies with my friend M. back home (name shortened because it's unique enough that if you search for just her first name, you only get two posts, and she's a lawyer so she can't have random stuff about her bopping about the Internet) - while we were in college we'd make ghorme sabze, kebabs, babaghanoush, hummus, lahmajoun, tabbouleh, dolma (most people know it as stuffed grape leaves, I know dolma as stuffed vegetables), sarma (stuffed grape leaves), pomegranate salad, feta with mint sauce, kofta, mint tea, yoghurt, cucumber-tomato salad...and pick up a pint of milk, saffron or rose Iranian kulfi (ice cream) to finish it off.

We'd douse it all with the right blend of citrus, salt and sumac (yes, sumac like the plant - the powder made from it is actually quite tasty and used as a seasoning in the Near and Middle East) Then we'd invite all our friends to my apartment or the rooftop deck of her dorm to eat the lot of it, and they'd be forever in our debt.

I'm used to having to cook Armenian and Iranian food in Taipei stuff by myself - I usually stick with the easy stuff - the salads, the mint tea, the hummus and babaghanoush. I haven't tried to make a full on shishkebab, lahmajoun, dolma or ghorme sabze in years. Some things are just too hard to do right in a Taiwanese kitchen. I'm sorry, but it's true.

So imagine my delight when I noticed this restaurant. We had to eat there. We just had to.

My short, personal review? Delicious. I had the korbideh kebab set with yoghurt soup (delish), the chicken roll (really nice, though I don't quite get why there was a maraschino cherry on top), the feta salad (loved the tangy herbal dressing) and the halwa. Brendan had a stew with lamb and eggplant, the tomato-cucumber salad (just right), the yoghurt soup and the rice pudding.

The lot of it was awesome. The only let-down was the bread, but I prefer my kebabs with bread, so whatreyagonnado?

I did rather like the Iranian techno music playing, and the place looks like it turns into a hookah bar after hours, so we'll definitely check that out (no, we don't smoke hookahs normally - once every five years or so, to be honest - but it is something of my heritage and I've been really getting into family culture these days). There have been hookah bars that have come and gone in Taipei - a rather horrid place in Ximen, The Bed2 (now out of business) and a place that no longer exists in Shi-da. This place seems like your best bet if you're into good Iranian fare and a nice nargileh.

The color-changing neon disco lights under the bar made me feel like the place was run by these guys:

(from South Park Studios - the Persians take over in South Park's parody of 300)

OK, OK that wasn't nice, but dude, check out the disco light under the bar. That's all I'm sayin'.

By the way, for all of you who want to know how to make that deliciously simple tomato cucumber salad?


Peel and dice one large cucumber and 3-5 mid-size very ripe tomatoes (make sure to cut out the entirety of the tough part around the stem). Try to make the cubes small and equal in size. Sliver half an onion into very small slivers and add that. Douse in lemon juice and salt and a touch of black pepper. You can add some finely chopped fresh mint *or* (not and - or) parsley, too. Allow to sit for an hour or so to let the flavors mingle. Done. I've been making that salad since I was 12.


Anonymous said...

this must be the worse food i have ever had, i got sick and so did my girl friend.

Anonymous said...

worse than dog food