Saturday, November 04, 2006

Daily Bread

An idyllic oasis in the Iranian desert offers a unique dining experience.

The Zein-o-Din caravanserai stands in the desert outside Yazd, where it has been for at least 400 years. It was first constructed to offer shelter to caravans travelling along the legendary 'Silk Road' - the trading route that connected China's Yellow River to the Mediterranean Sea. Today, travellers of a very different sort rest their heads there. The ancient brick and mud structure was renovated about two years ago and is now a luxurious hotel catering mostly to European tourists.

An eager staff of four looks after every need of the visitors. It is Mohammad's job to make taftoon, a flat, round bread served with every meal at the caravanserai.

First he divides the carefully kneaded dough into medium-sized round loaves. These are then 'hand-thrown' with the expertise of a Napolitan pizza maker. The next step is to pierce the flattened dough with a fork, cover one side with caraway seeds and, using a cushioned pad, stick it to the inside of a scorching hot clay oven.

The end result is a perfectly cooked bread, similar to Indian naan and best eaten hot. At breakfast, taftoon is accompanied by feta cheese, slices of fresh cucumbers and tomatos and preserved figs. For lunch and dinner it is eaten with dishes such as gormeh sabzi, koresht-e bademjan and one night at the caravanserai, even ground camel meat.

Feel like trying taftoon yourself?

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