Kalleh Pacheh or the sheep’s head and hoof soup is probably one of the most traditional breakfast dishes in Iran. It includes lamb's head (including brain), tongues, and hooves, and is seasoned with lemon and cinnamon. Kaleh pacheh is almost always only served from three in the morning until sometime after dawn, and specialty restaurants (serving only Kalleh Pacheh) are only open during those hours. In some countries Kalleh Pacheh is enjoyed as a festive winter meal, usually by a company of men who sit around in a table, early in the morning.
Recipes: Kalleh Pacheh can be prepared using various recipes, and here are the ingredients of a recipe as recommended online: '1 clean lamb’s head, 6 clean lamb’s hooves, 2 large whole onions, 4 cloves garlic, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 bay leaves, 1 tbsp turmeric, and ample amounts of salt and pepper'.
Preparation: Here is the method of preparation: 'In a large pot, soak head and hooves in cold water over night. Drain from the soaking water and cover in clean water. Bring to the boil and then change the water. In the fresh water add all ingredients with head and hooves, and bring to boil. Simmer for 8 hours to become tender, and then serve with fresh bread and lime juice'.
In Iran: There are many restaurants in various cities in Iran where customers go and eat Kalleh Pacheh every morning. Its popularity is under threat, however, from the spread of fast food and from the medical doctors warning about the dish’s high cholesterol. Some people drink a cup of strong tea (in Persian: Chai-e Por Rang) after eating Kalleh Pacheh to neutralize the detrimental effects of high cholesterol. Research works suggest that drinking black tea may reduce the risk of Coronary Heart Diseases. (View the online article on the Factual Department of Tea written by this author).
Thomas Erdbrink from Washington Post Foreign Service visited one of those restaurants in Tehran and noted that the owner of the restaurant took a cooked sheep’s head and held it in the air and said, 'Look at this, this has exactly the same ingredients as a human head, only we eat it.' He stripped the head bare of all edible parts until only the skull remained. 'The brains, the tongue and the skin are all very tasty, as are the eyes,' he explained. 'Put some lemon and cinnamon over it and you will have a very tasty start to your morning'.
In Other Countries: Kalleh Pacheh, as named differently like Pacha, Khash, etc., is also consumed in some other countries:
1. Pacha is a traditional Iraqi dish made from sheep's head, trotters and stomach; all boiled slowly and served with bread sunken in the broth. The cheeks and tongues are considered the best parts. Many people prefer not to eat the eyeballs which could be removed before cooking. The stomach lining would be filled with rice and lamb and stitched with a sewing thread.
2. The dish is known in Kuwait and other Persian Gulf countries as Pacha too, and that is found in other Arab countries such as in Egypt and is known as Kawari.
3. Kalleh Pacheh in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia is called as Khash. Modern-day convention in Armenia dictates that it should be consumed during the month that has the letter of 'r' in its name, thus excluding May, June, July, and August (month names in Armenian are derivatives of the Latin names). No such restriction on Khash consumption exists in Georgia.
Epilpgue: In Iran, one of the best types of Kalleh Pacheh can be found in Kashan, a city in the central province of Isfahan.
Famous Iranian poet Mowlana Jalaledin Mohammad Mowlavi Rumi (1207-1273) possibly did not try Kalleh Pacheh in Kashan and that was why he did not praise this Iranian popular dish in one of his poems! He wrote that, 'I am only a follower of love and care. From the bowl of head and hooves, I will not share'. The Persian text of his poem on Kalleh Pacheh reads as follows: 'Man sar nakhoram keh sar geraan ast. Pacheh nakhoram keh ostokhaan ast. Khordam ze tereed-o pacheh yek chand. As pacheh sar-e maraa zyaan ast. Zin pass sar-e pacheh nist maa raa. Maa raa va kassi keh ahl-e khaan ast. Man eshgh khoram keh khoshgavaar ast. Zough-e dahan ast-o nashv-e jaan ast'
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
Aghamiri, J. (2009): Online Notes on Kaleh Pacheh: Ingredients & Preparation
Erdbrink, T. (2009): Online Article on 'In Tehran, the Best Part of Waking Up: A Sheep’s Head on Your Plate', the Washington Post
Saadat Noury, M. (1982): Principles of Human Nutrition in Health and Disease (in Persian), ed., Tehran, Iran
Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Online Article on the Factual Department of Tea
Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Online Article on the First Iranian Popular Dishes
Various Sources (2011): Notes and News on Persian Cuisines
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2011): Online Notes on Persian Cuisines, Kalleh Pacheh (in Persian), and Khash
Read more about the Moments in the Nutritional Department on the MISSING MOMENTS
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