Adventures in Online Iranian Food Shopping


(photo: Kalamala.com)

by Mariam Hosseini

Faloodeh, albaloo, zoolbiya, toot, gaz, zereshk (pictured) – are you drooling yet? You should be. Every Iranian has their favorite ingredient, that ubiquitous flavor that brings memories rushing back. Unless you’re actually in Iran, you may not be able to get your hands on zoghal akhteh or chaghaleh badoom anytime, but for the rest of us there is online shopping.

When I started looking around online to see what I could find in terms of Iranian grocery shopping, I was a little taken aback. For all the web savvy Iranians boast, there are only two veritable, complete sources for those shopping outside Iran: Sadaf and Kalamala (which is where the photo of zereshk above comes from). Sadaf itself is a food brand, so any shopping you do on their site is limited to their trademark. While Kalamala carries other brands too, the majority of their inventory is still Sadaf. Looks like someone has the market cornered.

Both have clear, easy to navigate layouts, making for easy shopping. Kalamala wins on the design front but neither site requires genius to add something to your cart. The downside to your shopping experience is that for both sites, you must create an account to shop. Although that isn’t too surprising, I was hoping not to add to my ever-increasing list of registration usernames and passwords.

Sadaf and Kalamala each have a specials section, meaning you can score your million-gallon tin of Iranian pickles for only $5.99 at Kalamala. Good luck getting it in the fridge. Sadaf’s sale section is larger, offering, among other things, a jar of kashk, a box of gaz, and a pound of tea, all for under $6 each.

I can’t say I recommend one site more than the other. Sadaf easily has a larger variety of foodstuffs (they even carry golpar!), but Kalamala doesn’t limit you to one brand. Both carry the essentials – torshi, sohaan, pomegranate molasses, dried limes, dried mint, sumac, and the like. The downside to Sadaf is that their sweets selection is not as varied as Kalamala’s. And both sources have a nonexistent bread selection. If you’re craving naan barbari or sangak, good luck. Neither carries fresh dairy products like feta or maast-o mooseer, and you can forget about fresh items like gojeh sabz, fresh pistachios, or those, ahem, special cuts of meat that hold a revered place in Iranian cuisine. Save those cravings for your trip to Iran (or Los Angeles).

The upside? Sadaf carries seeds so you can grow your own Iranian chives (tareh), watercress (shaahi), and sweet basil (reyhaan). They even carry Iranian-style skewers so you can finally make that kabaab koobideh the right way. Kalamala has a good tea selection – not just Sadaf brand, but Ahmad and Zarin too. If you have a taste for qottab, nazook, or goosh-e fil, they’re the place to shop. Kalamala and Sadaf both carry lots of ready-made khoreshs and spice blends, though they’re all Sadaf brand.

Just in case you’re looking for a more mainstream, well-recognized name at which to do your Iranian shopping, Kalustyan’s carries a number of Iranian products [Editor’s note: The site was down when we posted this article.]. There is no breakdown by country, but their search function makes it easy to find some Iranian items like chickpea cookies, toot, aloo, and gaz. The biggest downside aside from carrying only a few Iranian items is the price. Gourmet shopping comes with a gourmet cost.

Regardless of who you shop with, you’ll probably be exhausted after all that online decision-making. You’ll need something to refresh you. Something cold and sweet. And JOY OF ALL JOYS, Mashti Malone’s takes orders now. Rosewater saffron ice cream with pistachios? Enough said. For those craving something a little less traditional, they carry other flavors, like pomegranate sorbet and Turkish coffee ice cream. My only complaint is that they do not carry faloodeh.

So go forth and shop, cook, and eat. Revisit the tastes and smells that make Iranian cuisine so unique. Just make sure to practice restraint or the next thing you know you’ll be doubled over with a stomachache from too much cold (sard) or warm (garm) foods. And go easy on the lavashak. That stuff can be addictive.

Mariam Hosseini lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works in the nonprofit arena and pursues ethnic cooking in her spare time. She received her MA and BA in international relations with a concentration in Middle Eastern and Iranian affairs. Her website is (re)definition.

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Hi,

My name’sMonica I am Italian and would to found an on-line shop for bying Iranian food to be delivered to my place in Italy. Unfortunately I do not know the correct spelling of a spice I am especially looking for which is used in ‘chelo kebab’ , that sounds something like ‘soma’ (a dark red spice).
Can you be of help please?

thank you

Monica Emma

You’re probably thinking of sumac.

It can be found here:
http://www.zamourispices.com/sumac.html

im not sure but i think its called somakh

[...] I don't think other sites necessarily ignore art and cultural issues. However, there's a lot of non-political stuff happening that gets marginal attention. For instance, a few weeks ago we had a post about the Iran Cheetah Project , and one of my favorite posts is about online Iranian food shopping. [...]

 

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