- Tom Stebbins Jan 12, 2000 03:47 PM
I'm planning on going to the Afgani restaurant Hemland sometime soon. I've never had Afgani food, tho I'd imagine it is similar to the culinary stylings of my Persian friends. Does anyone have any thoughts or recomendations before I attend?
I'll be sure to write a detailed report.
The kebabs are usually wonderful. Some stews are very nice too, though at the places I have been to, not as good as Persian. There is often a dish of cooked pumpkin topped with a spiced meat sauce and youghurt -- grab it!
Another set of dishes that are excellent are the noodles. They are not al dente, but sort of soft homemade noodles, very nice and comforting. They are topped with yoghurt and other stuff -- red beans, meat sauce, and for me, best of all, garlic butter and mint.
re: Alan Divack
I know the Helmand well. I have only been to the Boston restaurant once, but the same folks own another, virtually identical, restaurant in Baltimore-- which was an old favorite (and a third somewhere in CA).
Lamb dishes are reliable-- try the Lamb Lawand. The pumpkin appetizer mentioned above is good (if you like sweet)-- but my favorite starter is the Aushak-- leek filled "ravioli" with a sauce of ground beef and yogurt.
The decor leaves something to be desired (Baltimore's is nicer)-- but the brick bread oven makes up for it. Enjoy.
Tom said ---
I'm planning on going to the Afghani restaurant Helmand sometime soon. I've never had Afghani food, tho I'd imagine it is similar to the culinary stylings of my Persian friends. Does anyone have any thoughts or recommendations before I attend?
I'll be sure to write a detailed report.
--------- Reply ----------
I lived for some time in Afghanistan back when Zahir Shah was King (The famous Shah of Iran was in full power then). I doubt if many Americans have much idea what Afghanistan is. The British just drew a bunch of lines on a map and called it Afghanistan. As I recall there are seven major languages spoken there by seven very different cultures. All these cultures have different cuisines -so the bottom line is -enjoy yourself at the Helmand and don't worry a lot about the food being "authentic".
Helmand is a river valley in the south of Afghanistan that the US has redeveloped into the breadbasket of Afghanistan. Here is a URL about that:
As you see -it is a sort of work in progress with the workers drawn mostly from several places. It has a wonderful history (Bost) Warring factions destroyed Bost long ago and the war with the USSR and subsequent rule by the fractious warlords has made Helmand another in a long history of failed attempts to bring Afghanistan into the 15th century :-
Persia (Iran) ruled much of the civilized world for some time (Darius) and has a very evolved cuisine compared to that of Afghanistan.
The food in Kabul usually was kabob based and the rice had different sorts of dried fruits and nuts incorporated. Often there were finely grated carrots, raisins, etc. Compared to what we ate in Iran - Afghani food was primitive but good. The bread (Nan) was the staple of meals. Often the Nan makers sat on top of their earthen ovens, shaped the dough and slipped the dough discs down between their legs into the oven. The big problem in Afghanistan is getting wood for fires. The people have decimated the forests. Hotel rooms would often cost extra with wood for the ubiquitous cast-iron stoves. I think there is oil up under the Oxus region - one reason that the USSR went to war over the control of Afghanistan.
I have known of the Helmand for a few years but never got around to trying it. We were very surprised to find an Afghan restaurant in Portland Maine when Boston had none. We ate there and it was good - with a limited menu. Since Boston has decent Turkish food, we prefer to eat that when the mood for this sort of Kebab /Shawarma, rice, yogurt, spices etc. strikes us.
Let us know what you think of the Helmand and if they have a lunch menu.
re: Tord Svenson
the moghul rulers of india came from the Afghanistan area - so actually the moghul cooking you get in Indian restaurants comes from there, too and is comparable (without the hot spices) tho much more elaborate at this point. Dishes like kabuli pullao which should contain in addition to the whole spices, nuts, raisins, caramelized carrots and onions, stewed lamb etc. represent the peak of the cuisine and not every afghan place in US can pull them off (like indian places, most of these are operated by people who were not serious cooks in their home country). Vegetable dishes, such as eggplant, pumpkin, spinach etc, often with yogurt sauce can be delicious. Herbs such as coriander, dill etc are widely used and places that don't include them are cutting corners in my opinion. since as I mentioned most afghan restaurants dont seem to produce the higher level cuisine, you may find that the best bets are kofta and other kebabs, soups and similar dishes. Looking forward to a report back on Helmand.