For more than a decade, Salamat Market and Deli in Orange offered sandwiches, stews and kebabs—but that's all about to change. Not that there's anything wrong with the Persian grocer's current menu: the sandwiches are sturdy hoagies, bloated loaves barely buttressing meat and a basket of moist veggies; the stews steam with spinach, pomegranate seeds or lamb shanks, depending on the day you visit; and the kebabs—doesn't matter whether you select the filet mignon, ground beef or chicken—arrive charred, in two plate-long lengths and coupled with a mound of fragrant basmati rice and two grilled tomatoes whose blackened skin effortlessly gives way to pulpy flesh.
This menu will remain, but Salamat's lunch-time crowd demands more. Expect soups such as aash, a noodle-and-bean soup famous for its simple yet delectable grandeur, and even more polos (rice pilafs) to join the zereshk (rice studded with tart barberries) and shirin (rice, orange peels, and a flurry of walnuts and almonds). Also remaining are the bulbs of raw white onions and a side of kashk (yogurt spiked with dill) that accompanies every meal and works as a refreshing antidote to the pleasing, hefty bulk of the meat-and-rice platters. Hopefully, Salamat will finally offer free lavash (a thin, light bread that's a toastier cousin of pita), but don't complain if you still have to buy it, cheapskate: a pack of five face-sized lavash leaves sets you back 60 cents.
But Salamat is more than just a takeout deli. The tiny store stocks a surprising array of goods imported from Iran: traditional Persian cheeses and figs; oils, jams and spices; and Persian breads ranging from pita to lavash to the massive sangak, a 2-foot-long flatbread thing that looks like a miniature bed sheet—there's even something called Armenian cracker bread, which is wrapped in butcher paper but feels and weighs like a military-grade pretzel. Slightly less intimidating are the boxes of pastries housing gooey zoolbia flour wheels dipped in rose water or the great walnut nazook, a slightly dry roll saved by a peppery walnut paste; dunk both of them in Salamat's soothing mint tea. And when you finally leave, pick up a carton of Mashti Malone, the legendary Los Angeles ice cream concern that makes such extraordinary flavors as rose-water saffron with pistachios, pomegranate and orange blossoms. I hope Salamat puts the Mashti ice cream in a more prominent place when they're done expanding; until then, grab a carton from that cubbyhole of a freezer in the back.
SALAMAT MARKET N DELI, 1718 N. TUSTIN ST., ORANGE, (714) 921-0153.