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Photo Essay | Le 15 ème: Téhéran-sur-Seine


30 May 2011 20:52Comments

[ spotlight ] "Persians have settled in various parts of Paris according to their means," Vida Nassehi-Behnam wrote in an entry for Encyclopaedia Iranica more than a decade ago. "The tower blocks of the 15th arrondissement, often referred to jokingly by Persians as 'Téhéran-sur-Seine,' contain a well-known concentration of Persians, and provide a focus for communal gatherings. There are shops owned and managed by educated, upper class ex-diplomats, engineers, architects, and administrators, who find moral support in this ethnic setting where their former status is recognized and acknowledged by their clients."

But why the quinzième? Perhaps because in addition to being more affordable than the more coveted 16th that lies just across the Seine, the developers of the Left Bank highrises set up sales offices in Iran in the 1970s. "Many Iranians, especially bazaaris, but also the high society bought a flat sur plan" -- site unseen -- said one longtime Iranian resident of Paris. "Then the Revolution occurred and I guess even more Iranians moved near their friends," added another. Today a cluster of Persian restaurants and baghali -- Iranian bodegas -- still cater to the neighborhood and visitors making the trek up to Charles Michels for chelo-kabab, noon khamehie (puff pastries filled with cream), or their daily staples.

Daily staples of a proper Iranian diet found in almost every baghali include white cheese (feta is usually used as a substitute), sabzi khordan, and fresh walnuts; long-grained rice, tea by the bulk, tomato paste, torshi, and miniature pickles; yogurt for mast-o khiar, doogh, and as a side dish to just about every meal; and ajeel, zoolba bamieh, and other Persian sweets. Something faintly resembling lavash, taftoon, barbari, or sangak can be found tied up dead in a plastic bag. Moraba albaloo (never sour in the Persian concoction of the preserve) remains a personal favorite -- and travels much better.
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Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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