Afghanistan is a landlocked country located in Central and South Asia. It shares borders with Pakistan to the south and east, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, and China to the northeast.
Kabuli Pulao, also known as Kabuli Pilaf or Qabuli Palaw, is a popular traditional dish from Afghanistan. It is considered one of the country’s national dishes and is widely enjoyed by Afghans and people from neighboring regions.
The main ingredients used in Kabuli Pulao are rice, meat (often lamb or chicken), and a variety of aromatic spices and nuts. The dish is known for its rich flavors and fragrant aroma, making it a delightful culinary experience.
Here’s a basic recipe for making Kabuli Pulao:
- 2 cups Basmati rice
- 500g lamb or chicken, cut into pieces
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil or ghee
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds or pistachios
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 4 cups water or lamb/chicken broth
- Rinse the Basmati rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water for about 30 minutes, then drain.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook until they become golden brown and crispy. Remove half of the fried onions and set them aside for garnishing.
- To the remaining onions in the pot, add the lamb or chicken pieces. Cook until they are lightly browned on all sides.
- Add the ground cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt to the meat. Stir well to coat the meat with the spices.
- Pour in the water or broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the meat simmer until it becomes tender and cooked through. This may take about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the meat used.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and add the soaked and drained Basmati rice. Cook until the rice is about 70% cooked (slightly undercooked). Drain the rice.
- Once the meat is tender, add the chopped carrots, raisins, and half of the chopped almonds or pistachios to the pot. Mix well and let it cook for a few more minutes until the carrots are tender.
- In a large non-stick pot or rice cooker, layer the partially cooked rice and the meat mixture. Start with a layer of rice, then add a layer of meat mixture, and repeat until all the ingredients are used. Finish with a layer of rice on top.
- Sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds or pistachios and the reserved fried onions over the top layer of rice.
- Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until the rice is fully cooked and fluffy.
- Gently fluff the Kabuli Pulao with a fork, ensuring the layers mix together while keeping the rice grains intact.
- Serve the Kabuli Pulao hot, garnished with additional fried onions and nuts if desired. It pairs well with yogurt, salads, and chutneys.
Note: This recipe is a basic guideline, and variations may exist depending on regional preferences and family traditions. Some versions of Kabuli Pulao may include additional ingredients like saffron, dried fruits, and other spices.
Bolani is a traditional Afghan stuffed flatbread, similar to a stuffed pancake or a turnover. It is a popular dish in Afghanistan and is often served as a main course or as a snack. Bolani is typically filled with a variety of ingredients, but the most common fillings include spiced potatoes, leeks, scallions, or lentils.
To make bolani, the dough is prepared by mixing flour, water, and sometimes oil until it forms a smooth and elastic dough. The dough is then rolled out into thin circles, similar to tortillas or Indian parathas. The filling is placed on one-half of the circle, and then the other half is folded over to cover the filling. The edges are sealed, and the bolani is cooked on a hot griddle or skillet until it becomes golden brown and crispy on both sides.
Bolani is often served with yogurt dipping sauce or chutney and is enjoyed for its flavorful and satisfying taste. It is a delicious and popular dish that represents Afghan cuisine and culture. Additionally, variations of bolani can be found in neighboring regions like Central Asia, Iran, and parts of the Indian subcontinent, each with their own unique fillings and preparation methods.
Borani Banjan, also known as Eggplant Borani or Burani Bonjan, is a traditional Afghan dish that features fried eggplant served with a tangy tomato-based sauce and topped with creamy yogurt. It’s a popular vegetarian dish in Afghan cuisine and is often served as a side dish or appetizer.
Here’s a basic recipe for Borani Banjan:
- 2 large eggplants, sliced into rounds
- Salt, for sprinkling
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to your spice preference)
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- Fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped, for garnish
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Slice the eggplants into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle salt over the eggplant slices and let them sit for about 20-30 minutes. This helps remove excess moisture and bitterness from the eggplants.
- While the eggplants are resting, heat enough vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the eggplant slices in batches until they are golden brown and tender. Place the fried eggplant slices on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- In a separate pan, sauté the chopped onions and minced garlic until they become soft and translucent.
- Add the diced tomatoes, ground coriander, ground turmeric, and chili powder to the onion and garlic mixture. Cook until the tomatoes become soft and start to break down, forming a sauce-like consistency.
- Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the fried eggplant slices on top of the tomato sauce in a single layer. You can layer them if needed.
- In a bowl, mix the plain yogurt with a bit of salt.
- Carefully spread the yogurt over the eggplant layer, covering it evenly.
- Cover the pan and let it simmer on low heat for about 5-7 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
- Once cooked, garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.
Borani Banjan can be served as a delicious side dish alongside rice or bread, and it pairs well with other Afghan dishes. Enjoy!
Aushak is a traditional Afghan dish that consists of dumplings filled with leeks and served with a yogurt-based sauce. It is a popular appetizer or side dish in Afghan cuisine and is enjoyed by many people around the world for its delicious and comforting flavors.
The dumplings are typically made with a simple dough and filled with a mixture of chopped leeks, onions, and spices. Once the dumplings are formed, they are boiled until they are cooked through and tender.
The yogurt sauce that accompanies Aushak is known as Chaka, which is made from yogurt, garlic, and sometimes mint. It adds a tangy and creamy element to the dish, complementing the savory flavors of the dumplings.
Aushak is often garnished with a sprinkling of dried mint or other herbs and is sometimes served with a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter for extra richness.
If you’d like to try making Aushak at home, there are various recipes available online that can guide you through the process step by step. It’s a delightful dish that showcases the essence of Afghan cuisine and is sure to impress your guests or loved ones. Enjoy!
Haft Mewa, also known as “Seven Fruits,” is a traditional Afghan custom observed during the celebration of the Afghan New Year, known as Nowruz. Nowruz marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated on the first day of the vernal equinox, usually around March 21st.
The Haft Mewa tradition involves preparing a special platter that contains seven different types of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Each item on the platter holds symbolic significance and is associated with different wishes and hopes for the coming year. The seven fruits typically included in the Haft Mewa are:
- Raisins: Symbolize good health and fertility.
- Senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree): Represents love and compassion.
- Pistachios: Symbolize prosperity and happiness.
- Almonds: Signify a long and fruitful life.
- Dried Apricots: Represent a bright future.
- Dried Figs: Symbolize sweetness and joy.
- Walnuts: Stand for wisdom and intelligence.
During Nowruz celebrations, the Haft Mewa platter is placed at the center of the Sofreh-ye Haft Seen, a decorative spread or table setting. The Sofreh-ye Haft Seen also includes other symbolic items, such as candles, a mirror, painted eggs, and various other items that represent different aspects of life and nature.
Family and friends gather around the Sofreh-ye Haft Seen to celebrate Nowruz, share meals, and exchange good wishes for the coming year. The Haft Mewa tradition is a beautiful way for Afghans to welcome the New Year and express their hopes and blessings for the future.
Sheer Khurma is a traditional sweet dessert that originates from the Indian subcontinent and is popularly enjoyed during Eid celebrations. The name “Sheer Khurma” is derived from Persian, where “Sheer” means milk, and “Khurma” means dates.
This delectable dessert is made with vermicelli (seviyan) cooked in sweetened milk, and it’s garnished with various nuts, dried fruits, and dates. The dish has rich, creamy flavors and a delightful combination of textures from the soft vermicelli and crunchy nuts.
To prepare Sheer Khurma, you will need the following ingredients:
- 1-liter whole milk
- 1/2 cup vermicelli (seviyan)
- 1/2 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
- 1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
- A handful of mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios), chopped
- A handful of dried fruits (raisins, apricots, figs), chopped
- 5-6 dates, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
- A pinch of saffron strands (soaked in a little warm milk for color and flavor)
- Rosewater (optional, for added fragrance)
- In a heavy-bottomed pot or pan, heat the ghee or butter over medium heat.
- Add the chopped nuts and dried fruits to the pot and sauté them until they become lightly golden. Keep a small portion aside for garnishing.
- Now, add the vermicelli to the pot and roast it with the nuts and dried fruits for a few minutes until it turns slightly golden in color.
- Pour in the whole milk and bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Once the milk starts boiling, reduce the heat to low and let the vermicelli cook in the milk. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.
- Add the sugar, cardamom powder, and soaked saffron strands along with the milk to enhance the flavor and color.
- Continue simmering the Sheer Khurma until the vermicelli becomes soft and the milk thickens to a creamy consistency. It might take around 20-25 minutes.
- Add the chopped dates and let the dessert cook for a few more minutes until the dates soften.
- Finally, you can add a few drops of rosewater for an extra aromatic touch (optional).
- Turn off the heat and let the Sheer Khurma cool down to room temperature.
- Once cooled, transfer the dessert to a serving dish and garnish it with the reserved sautéed nuts and dried fruits.
Your delightful Sheer Khurma is now ready to be served! Enjoy this delicious dessert with family and friends, especially during festive occasions like Eid.
Mastawa is another traditional and famous food of Afghanistan that is popular on winter evenings. It is a delicious rice dish usually consisting of small grains of rice with sun-dried mutton. All these ingredients are boiled together and cooked with onion, garlic, coriander, and other spices. Bitter orange peel and spices are added while serving to make the dish more aromatic and spicy. The recipe’s true essence is lahndi, a specially prepared dried lamb.
Chapli Kabab (also spelled as Chopan Kabob or Chapli Kebab) is a popular Pakistani and Afghan dish known for its delicious and distinctive flavors. “Chapli” means “flat” in the Pashto language, which describes the shape of the kababs. These kababs are not your typical skewered variety; they are shaped like flat patties or discs.
Here’s a basic recipe for making Chapli Kabab:
- 500g ground beef or lamb (you can also use a mixture of both)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 green chilies, finely chopped (adjust to your spice preference)
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (adjust to your spice preference)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon ghee or cooking oil
- Salt to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons chickpea flour (besan) or all-purpose flour (optional, for binding)
- Oil for frying
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, chopped onion, tomatoes, green chilies, crushed coriander seeds, crushed cumin seeds, red chili flakes, turmeric powder, fresh coriander, and mint leaves.
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly with your hands to ensure even distribution of the spices.
- Add the beaten egg to the mixture and continue to mix well. The egg acts as a binder, helping the kababs hold their shape.
- If the mixture feels too loose, you can add a few tablespoons of chickpea flour or all-purpose flour to bind it together.
- Once the mixture is ready, cover it and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This helps the flavors meld and makes it easier to shape the kababs.
- After the resting period, take small portions of the mixture and shape them into flat, round patties.
- Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the kababs in batches until they turn golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- Remove the kababs from the pan and place them on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
Serve the Chapli Kababs hot with naan or paratha, accompanied by yogurt raita and salad. They are also delicious as a side dish with rice or can be served with chutneys and sauces for dipping.
Chapli Kababs are loved for their rich flavors, tenderness, and unique texture. Enjoy this delightful dish with friends and family!
Mantu is a popular dish in Central Asian cuisine, particularly in countries like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It is a type of dumpling that is typically filled with spiced ground meat, such as lamb or beef, and sometimes mixed with onions and herbs.
The dumplings are usually steamed and served with a side of yogurt-based sauce, often garnished with a sprinkling of ground paprika or dried mint. Mantu is a delicious and flavorful dish, enjoyed by many in the region and beyond.
Afghan jalebi is the most popular sweet or dessert in Afghanistan. The traditional dish is made out of a flour mixture that combines fermented sugar, butter, and saffron powder to give the cake an attractive golden color. Locals love to eat it hot, so you should try this way of eating it too.