If you happen to find yourself exploring the streets of Iran in the early morning hours, you’ll begin to see a fair amount of locals queuing up for their traditional breakfast soup, kaleh pacheh. Assembled from sheep hooves and heads (including the coveted eyes, tongue, and brain), this caloric bomb provides the energy boost workers seek to power through the day. Vendors start selling steaming bowls of “head and hooves” soup before dawn, with most restaurants opening around 3:00 a.m. Don’t be late: Arrive near their closing time of 9:00 a.m., and you’ll likely be told to come back the next day.
With the preparation process being quite a time-consuming task, the proprietors of these these steaming bowls of trotters spend the majority of the night prepping for the onslaught of customers in the early hours. To prep multiple sheep heads and hooves for consumption, they must first clean them with cold water, then begin a lengthy boiling process. In order to achieve the savory and aromatic flavors of the breakfast soup, cooks add cinnamon, bay leaves, herbs, and other spices to the pot. After eight hours of boiling, the meat becomes tender and is ready to land in your bowl.
Most diners add a squeeze of lime and some traditional lavash bread to the mix. Some lovers of kaleh pacheh crumble up the bread to add into the broth, while others prefer to sandwich bits of sheep eye between two pieces of lavash. Kaleh pacheh loyalists tout the flavor as being extremely savory and, depending on the recipe, herbaceous. Some claim that the sheep brain can taste bland, but many choose to add lime with salt to pump up the flavor.
Where to Try It
Tabakhi Bare Sefid142 Sattar Khan Street, Towhid Square, District 2, Tehran, Iran
Open from 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., this restaurant exclusively sells kaleh pacheh. Make sure you're there early as the dish is likely to sell out quickly.