x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Food obsession: Iranian rahaat

A small Iranian sweets store in Deira sells a rose-petal and pistachio rahaat that's fragrant, sensuous and evocative of childhood memories.

Iranian rahaat. Courtesy ILiveInAFryingPan.com
Iranian rahaat. Courtesy ILiveInAFryingPan.com

Since Sadaf Iranian Sweets replaced the Sadaf Cafeteria on Maktoum street last year, I have returned time and again to purchase saffron, high quality nuts and sweets that have been delicately lifted out of an Arabian Nights tale.

Sadly, the shop manager had afforded me nothing more than a fake stilted smile and eyes of genuine annoyance since the opening, admittedly because I am one of those blisteringly curious shoppers whose culinary questions are far more plentiful than the dirhams I eventually part with at the store.

I hoped that we could make amends on Iranian New Year (Nowruz) last week. I scanned the sweets display with the eyes of an eagle, suppressing my questions and politely asking for one of nearly everything that caught my fancy. The sweet that became my favourite was a twin of the Turkish Delight, the starchy, gelatinous square with synthetic essence that I have admittedly never craved after my initial tastings in Istanbul.

But these ones were different. While Turkish Delight is often flavoured with rosewater, these squares were padded in real rose petals and looked sensuous, inviting and very befitting of a spot in my Nowruz trolley.

Indulging in the rose-petal rahaat, an Iranian descendant of the Turkish delight, was not only the first time I enjoyed this gluey dessert, it was also evocative on a personal level. As I drew the rahaat close for a taste, the sweet aroma of roses engulfed all my senses, forcing my eyes shut and transporting me back to a childhood memory. It was a memory of kneeling at a holy shrine in my grandmother's village in India. The shrine was covered in exquisite brocade sheets and sprinkled with rose petals, the fragrance of which swept the marble floors and walls with a palpable cool tranquillity. The rose petals parted to reveal pistachios studded in the soft chewy interior of the rahaat, elevating this sweet to a new rank in my book of favourite desserts.

On an even happier note, I am pleased to report that on my way out of the store, the shop manager not only mustered a smile for me, but feigned interest in my life and even insisted that the sweets were on the house. We had finally bonded, and that alone made my Nowruz indescribably sweeter.

Arva Ahmed founded Frying Pan Adventures (www.fryingpanadventures.com), which takes people on tours through hidden culinary gems in Dubai

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