History of Ice-Cream (Bastani) in Iran
By: Ahmad Jalali Farahani, June 2004
Iranians first got to know the ice cream when Iranian King Nasser uddin Shah enjoyed French ice creams in Paris. The monarch was willing to take ice cream to Iran but he never did it. His successor Mozaffar uddin Shah had institutionalized ice creams at the palace. Up to the World War II, Iranians were not familiar with ice creams. When Reza Shah took power he let everyone enjoy ice creams.
Akbar Mashdi was the first Iranian to vend ice creams. He was known even in Los Angeles and Paris. His real name was Akbar Mashahdi Malayeri. He was born in a remote village in 1868. Akbar had to leave the village for the city to find a job. His brother accompanied him but he was killed by highwaymen. Akbar experienced a variety of jobs before getting engaged in ice cream sales. He used to take sugar and tea to northern cities and bring back firewood to Tehran to make a living. He got acquainted with Mohammad Rish at the age of 20. Mohammad Rish maintained good ties with Mozaffar uddin Shah courtiers. That is when Akbar Malayeri recognizes ice creams.
Eating ice-cream (bastani) around an ice-cream vendor. Around 1900 CE
Reza Shah Takes Over
Reza Khan comes to power and Mohammad Rish and Akbar Malayeri seize on the moment to found the first ice cream shop in Iran. They opened their shop near the railway in 1318 lunar hijra. Two years later, Mohammad Rish abandons the job but Akbar Malayeri presses on with selling ice creams. Mohammad Malayeri, the only heir to Akbar Mashdi, says: "The Iranian ice creams Akbar Mashdi served the Iranians was totally different with foreign ones. Iranians preferred other materials like creams, rose water and saffron than stabilizers. They also used a special plant whose form resembles fox." Asked to comment on Akbar Mashdi's ice creams, Mohammad says: "He got reputation because of his honesty and sincerity. He always offered ice creams of the best quality."
"I remember well that he worked a lot in the wintertime. There was no refrigerator in the country and Akbar had to procure ice in the treacherous mountains near Tehran." At that time, the people used natural fridge. They dug the earth up to 60 meters deep and preserved ice for summertime. "The courtiers, ambassadors and commoners purchased ice creams from Akbar Mashdi," Mohammad says. "Once Fakhroddoleh, mother of then prime minister Dr Amini, had asked Akbar Mashdi to go to France with her to serve their guests ice creams."
Akbar Mashdi Malayeri lived more than 90 years and he died from renal failure at the age of 92. Pakistan and Iraqi newspapers published his death. A Pakistani diplomat wrote a column to pay tribute to Akbar Mashdi. Akbar Mashdi never married to have a child because he was very fond of his career. Today, he is not living to see his efforts are forgotten about. He is not among the people to witness mechanical ice creams. Akbar Mashdi's high quality ice creams cost 3 rials per kilo put now each kilogram of ice cream costs 18,000 rials.