Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pickle Passport: Torshi in Tehrangeles

I don't think I realized exactly how blissful my Southern California childhood was until I embarked on a more chaotic, far less idyllic lifestyle in New York City. Aside from riding my bike to the beach and hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, the additional benefit to being raised in L.A. was growing up with kids who had emigrated from Iran.

Sleepover parties meant homemade Persian dinners of pomegranate chicken, tah dig, strained yogurt, and torshi--tangy, vinegar-cured pickles. My open-minded parents even let me play hooky to spend Persian New Year with my Iranian classmates. It never occurred to me that Iran was anything other than a place of rich history, spectacular beauty, and complex, regional cuisines. (At that age, I didn't fully understand why my friends were forced to flee from Iran, leaving behind everything they owned.)

I have been trying to get to this closed country for the past two years. This week, as Iran is especially top of mind, I am hopeful it will return to the peaceful country it once was for my friends' parents--and that my Iranian adventure will soon become a reality.

In the meantime, I have just returned home with a round-up of my favorite Persian markets in Tehrangeles. I encourage you to explore this side of L.A. and invest $10 in culinary souvenirs that may be new to you: Pickled sour grapes, chickpea cookies, and cardamom tea are all easy to slip into luggage.

Star Market (nan-e nokhodchi, cardamom chickpea cookies)
12146 Santa Monica Blvd
West L.A.

Mashti Malone's Ice Cream (rosewater saffron-pistachio sorbet)
1525 North La Brea Avenue
West Hollywood

Rose Market (wall of pickles)
1387 Westwood Boulevard (this stretch is the main artery for Persian culture in L.A.)
West L.A.

Q Market and Produce
17261 Vanowen Street
Van Nuys

Photo courtesy of flickr.