Shopping in Iran used to be an event in itself: food items were purchased separately, with meat, dairy, and produce each having their respective areas and stores. Larger Western markets and chains have since spread throughout cities, but traditional bazaars still exist and are commonly frequented. Here are five of the best food markets in Tehran.
Located in one of the oldest neighborhoods of northern Tehran, Tajrish Bazaar is the go-to place for fresh produce. The maze of paths eventually gives way to a main square, filled with vendors selling all kinds of fruits and vegetables, including those hard-to-find items, such as avocados, arugula, and sweet potatoes – albeit at a hefty price. The tantalising aroma of herbs and spices wafts out of atâri (apothecaries), while signs on dairy stores indicate the arrival of fresh camel’s milk. On the main Shahrdari St., several kiosks serve local delicacies, such as âsh soup, kofte, giant meatballs, and kashk-e bademjân (fried eggplant with whey).
In recent years, posh malls have been springing up all around Tehran, attracting the city’s most affluent shoppers – and one such mall is Palladium, in northern Tehran. Here, visitors can find luxury brands, a food court, and an outdoor café with a view, as well as services such as a gym and hypermarket. The food market looks and feels just like those in the West and carries many of the same products, making it a dream for expats missing their favorites from home. While many quality international items are available, they often carry a heavy price tag.
About the closest thing to Chinatown you’ll find in Tehran, Behjat Abad offers a wide assortment of Asian products, from breadcrumbs to sauces and everything in between – most of it imported from China, South Korea, and Japan. It’s your one-stop shop for all your Asian culinary needs, as the bazaar also has packaged exotic fruits and vegetables, as well as a fresh fish market. Like with all rare and imported products in Iran, be prepared to have to splurge for these items.
The perfect store for vegetarians or anyone just trying to eat healthily, Bamika Vegetable Shop is offers plenty of options. The vegetable, pasta, and fruit salad bar allows you to mix and match to your liking, while the pre-prepared salads, stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, and other light bites are great for on-the-go eats. The freshly squeezed pomegranate, apple, and pineapple juices are also a hit with shoppers. And while Bamika offers a considerable range of fresh produce, it may not always be in stock, especially with more exotic items like dragon fruit.
Just up the street from Ananda Vegetarian Restaurant is Govinda, a small health food store that’s crammed with nourishing groceries, from flours, oils, and herbal infusions to egg-free pastries, and plant-based dairy and meat substitutes, many of which aren’t widely available in Tehran. Homemade veggie treats can also be picked up here, as can brochures and books on the benefits of a meat-free diet. A second-floor café is the perfect spot to refuel with one of the delicious vegetarian dishes or desserts from the healthy menu, washed down with a hot or cold beverage.