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Afghani Cuisine [from UK/Ireland]

Harters Jun 7, 2008 06:37 AM

A new place has opened on Manchester's "Curry Mile" in Rusholme advertising that it specialises in Afghani food. About which I have a total blank in my knowledge.

Anyone know what I should be looking out for to eat?

For info, a flyer handed to me mentions the following dishes which I assume are Afghan:

Qabily Pillow - described as rice with meat, carrots & sultanas

Manto - steamed mince meat, onions, yoghurt, lentil sauce (do I fancy steamed mince? I suspect not.)

Ashek - steamed veggies otherwise as manto

Boulani - looks similar to an Italian calzone - stuffed with spuds, corander & mint.

So, are these the real deal?

As an aside, a number of the takeaways were making a Big Thing of Kobeda kebabs. What them?

  1. howler Jun 7, 2008 06:55 AM

    afghanistan is almost as multi-ethnic as india, so afghani cuisine is itself very varied. but i suppose they too have evolved a restaurant cuisine much as the indians have. perhaps a useful way to think of afghani cuisine is to view it along the fascinating spectrum that starts in teheran and ends in delhi.

    but the spellings worry me - that should be qabuli (kabuli) palao, no? so while the descriptions sound like the real deal, i worry that its the usual bangla trick of lifting menus and then serving whatever they feel like. but maybe its the real deal, in which case what a find.

    1 Reply
    1. re: howler
      Joan Kureczka Jun 7, 2008 07:18 AM

      Howler -- I've seen a lot of different spellings on the pilau (both for "Qabily" and "palao", including "pillow". The San Francisco Bay Area is home to lots of Afghans, with the Frement, CA community being referred by them as "Little Kabul". So I've got no issues with the spellings as used here.

    2. j
      Joan Kureczka Jun 7, 2008 07:15 AM

      Afghan food is lovely -- San Francisco's had a great place for year's, owned by Pres. Karzai's (sp?) brother (also has a place in Cambridge, Mass).

      Aushek are particularly good-- like leek filled ravioli's with a nice lamb and tomato sauce, and usually a second garlic yogurt sauce.

      Qabily pillow -- the most typical Afghan rice and meat dish (generally large chunks of lamb), somewhat on the sweet side as sometimes the carrots are slightly candied.

      Most Afghan places do kaddo, which is a sugar-roasted pumpkin with the same two sauces that are on the aushak. Heavenly -- definitely try this if they have it.

      The Mantwo are great -- they are steamed wheat dumplings filled with the mince and served with the sauce that is described.

      The Bolani are also good and pretty much as desribed but not as puffy as a calzone -- more like a noodle pastry used and fried. I usually pass on these only because I prefer the aushak.

      Afghan places do great lamb, there are also generally some very tasty eggplant dishes. Generally it always seems to me to be the cross roads culinarily of Northern Indian and Persian cooking (which of course, geographically it is!) So some of the dishes may resemble Northern Indian, but more savory than spicy (the hot spices are served as sauces on the side). Breads are thick flatbreds, almost foccacia-like.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Joan Kureczka
        Caitlin McGrath Jun 8, 2008 08:15 PM

        The majority of bolani I've had, especially at Fremont (CA) Afghan restaurants have been baked and taste very similar to North Indian aloo paratha.

        1. re: Joan Kureczka
          BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jun 8, 2008 09:45 PM

          Second on the kaddo -- that's my favorite Afghani dish by a mile. We get a big load of sugar pumpkins in the fall and keep them in the mudroom so my wife can make it whenever she gets the urge to over the winter.

          Yes, you'll be able to have lots of tasty lamb and eggplant dishes, and you should be able to get a side of okra similar to what you'd get in most Indian restaurants: stewed with okra and spices.

        2. limster Jun 8, 2008 12:51 PM

          I'd probably pay attention to the quality of their rice -- it's something that Afghani cooking takes very seriously. There are several varieties, flavoured with saffron or a range of herbs.

          1. Brian S Jun 8, 2008 04:15 PM

            I spent a month in Afghanistan just before the Russians invaded. I saw my share of chaikhanas. (restaurants -- means tea-eat) Mud walls, blazing samovars full of tea, priceless carpets on the floor, people sitting on the floor eating. Always pilao. So I know pilao is an authentic dish. One little town in the north had the best bread I've had in my life. Baked fresh every two hours, and the bakeries had runners who would bring it to the restaurant.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Brian S
              luckyfatima Jun 8, 2008 11:42 PM

              a "khana" means a house/place/abode, it is a noun,...a chai-khana means a tea-house.

              1. re: luckyfatima
                Brian S Jun 9, 2008 12:05 PM

                I believe that khane means house in Farsi but khana means food in Hindi. (I could be wrong about this.) But I'm pretty sure you are right and chaikhana is a teahouse.

                1. re: Brian S
                  howler Jun 9, 2008 12:31 PM

                  lucky fatima is right - as is brian s. the word khana by itself is food but in conjunction with another noun is the 'place where the noun is ' - so chai khana is the the place where the tea is or tea house. confusingly, 'devkhana' should translate to 'god house' or temple but means a dispensary of medicine. thats because 'devkhana' is an abbreviation of 'davaikhana' which means medicine house.

                  very confusing.

                  1. re: howler
                    luckyfatima Jun 10, 2008 01:31 AM

                    the khaaneh in Farsi which means house/abode/place is the same word as the khaana in Dari, Pushto/Pukhto and other languages in the Iranian family, as well as Urdu/Hindi, and other Indic languages. In the case of Dari and Pashto/Pakhto it is a cognate with the Farsi term, but in Urdu/Hindi and other Indic languages it is a lexical adoption or "borrowed" word. The word starts with a phoneme that doesn't exist in English, that deep throated "ch" sound like in German.

                    The khaana which means food in Hindi/Urdu and other Indic languages starts with a completely different consonant (it is an aspirated /k/, and neither the word nor that aspirated /k/ sound is used in Farsi, Pushto/Pukhto, etc...The way to say "eat" in Afghani languages is not khaana, and Hindi/Urdu is not an Afghani language (though it is widely understood as a second language in Afghanistan for various reasons). The Iranian branch of languages (like the languages of Afghanistan) use the verb stem "khor" for "to eat," which starts with that fricated "ch" sound.

                    neither of those two different consonants exist in English so I can see how they could be confusing if you cannot speak or understand any of the above mentioned languages.

                    1. re: luckyfatima
                      howler Jun 10, 2008 03:46 AM

                      in hindi we say 'khana' for food and place in exactly the same way, though i do thought i detected a slight difference in the aspiration at the beginning 'kha' sound when i said it aloud a few times.

                      1. re: howler
                        luckyfatima Jun 10, 2008 03:58 AM

                        In Hindi khana/house has a small dot under the /kh/ akshar because it's correct pronunciation has the same /kh/ as in khabar, khush, khudkushi, kharaab etc. along with other Persio-Arabic lexical adoptions. and khana/food is a native desi word, there is not dot under the /kh/. There is supposed to be a difference in pronunciation, and people who speak with a "shuddh" accent make the distinction. These days kuch bhi chalta hai and people mix jeem/zeem and say karaab for kharaab, but this is not correct "parha likha" pronunciation.

                        I speak Urdu, and in Urdu script the Persian /kh/ and desi /kh/ are written with totally different letters, and also in Urdu the distinction between the two khanas has preserved the clear difference between the two different words better in pronunciation.

                        Anyway, the desi khana/food is not even used at all in Afghani languages. As I said before, they say "khor,". Hindi/Urdu also has "khor" as a lexical adoption, as in haraamkhor (jo haraam tariqay se kamata hai) or sabzkhor (vegetarian in Urdu).

                        1. re: luckyfatima
                          rutgers2 Jun 13, 2008 05:55 AM

                          Luckyfatima, does Afghan cooking require ghee (spelled it wrong, the clarified butter) in addition to yogurt. I try to avoid all dairy products now but in the past have eaten at a lovely Afghan restaurant and I miss the food. There is an Afghan restaurant near my office and I would like to eat there but am concerned that as a vegan, I will not be able to get anything other than bread. Thank you.

                          1. re: rutgers2
                            luckyfatima Jun 13, 2008 11:19 AM

                            Rutgers2: Afghans do use ghee as an ingredient, but I doubt restaurants are using it because it is expensive, they are most likely using some type of vegetable oil. In cuisines that traditionally used ghee, no one fries things in ghee anymore, but sometimes a bit of ghee is spooned over cooked rice, or boiled w/the rice, a teaspoon to perfume a dish at the end, etc., Also, sometimes those Afghan flat breads are painted with ghee.You should ask at the restaurant just to make sure, and tell them no ghee for me.

                            Yoghurt is in a lot of dishes, definately more of it than ghee.

                            1. re: luckyfatima
                              rutgers2 Jun 13, 2008 01:16 PM

                              Thank you so much, LuckyFatima! I hope you have a wonderful weekend. You are so knowledgeable, you must be a great chef.

                          2. re: luckyfatima
                            JiyoHappy Jun 15, 2008 12:58 PM

                            .>>>as in haraamkhor (jo haraam tariqay se kamata hai)
                            Please give an english equivalant of the above,
                            just as you did for "subzkhor"

                            1. re: JiyoHappy
                              luckyfatima Jun 16, 2008 03:06 AM

                              I don't think haraamkhor has an exact English equivalent, but it means someone who earns money illegally (and eater of haraam or forbidden means) like a pimp or a drug dealer.

                              1. re: luckyfatima
                                JiyoHappy Jun 16, 2008 09:06 PM


              2. drmimi Jun 14, 2008 08:33 PM

                Help me out
                Afghani is the name of the currency
                Afghan a name for the people (counting all the ethnicities in Afghanistan)?
                In the Bay Area and Central Valley California-- I have tasted many kinds of foods from Afghan recipes ( some home cooked by friends, others in restuarants in Berkeley)...
                Something about the sweet combined with the savory (eg pomegrantes, apricots with meats) that makes my heart sing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: drmimi
                  luckyfatima Jun 15, 2008 04:36 AM

                  dr mimi: that is correct about afghani being a currency and the correct way to refer to the Afghan people in English is not Afghani. i was thinking of that when i wrote the above stuff.

                2. h
                  Harters Feb 18, 2010 01:35 PM

                  A recent lunch on the Curry Mile reminded me of my question here about the kobeda kebab.

                  Google is very little help putting almost all references to it into this geographical area. The pictures look like a very long seekh kebab (served wrapped in a flatbread). I'm still wondering what its origins might be. Obviously not Afghan (as that place doesnt sell them). I begin to wonder if it's just a name that one of the local takeaways has dreamed up and others are copying it. Any thoughts?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Harters
                    luckyfatima Feb 18, 2010 09:37 PM

                    Raising hand fervently "oh meeee teacher I know this one!!!"

                    kobeda means pounded in Farsi (reference to minced meat), it is the source of the loan word 'kofta' in other nearby languages (Arabic and Urdu for example). If you google 'kubideh' and 'kubideh kabab'. I think in Dari (dialect of Farsi spoken in Afghanistan) these are called 'lola kabaab' or 'kofta kabaab' so Afghans eat them too.

                    1. re: luckyfatima
                      Harters Feb 19, 2010 02:54 AM

                      Thanks for the info. Intriguing that a Farsi word is being used as almost all of the food outlets along The Mile are Bangladeshi or Pakistani owned. I begin to think that my guess is right and one of them decided to use the word to differentiate this kebab from the others that are sold and other takeaways have now picked it up its use. It'd certainly explain it's very limited geographical use.


                      1. re: Harters
                        howler Feb 19, 2010 01:40 PM

                        fyi harters - the official language of the royal court in mughal india (which included afghanistan) was persian. so you should expect farsi names all over the sub continent.

                        1. re: howler
                          luckyfatima Feb 19, 2010 08:22 PM

                          Yes very true, also the Mughlai origin food names are brought to South Asia by Central Asian invaders and are in Persian (or if not originally Farsi, entered Farsi thru Turic languages or Arabic), seekh kabaab, shaahi qorma, naan, pullao, qeema, kofta, all terms/dishes brought thru Farsi. I have no idea about South Indian languages but all North Indian languages are filled with Persio-Arabic lexicon the way English is filled with French and older Greco-Latin type vocab on our Germanic language. There have been fairly recent social movements to weed these terms out of Hindi for example, in favor of indigenous Sanskritized vocab. But somehow this movement doesn't work on the culinary plain so much. Anyway, kubideh IS a surprise on an Indian resto menu since that is not a term adopted in S. Asia.

                          1. re: luckyfatima
                            howler Feb 20, 2010 02:46 AM

                            agreed about kubideh.

                            the dravidian south indian languages are a completely different family from the north indian languages and no, there aren't persian words in them.

                            finally, hindi was the encouraged communal language in north india because both muslims and hindus spoke it (khadi bholi - the standing language). but the muslims added persian-arabic words ... and voila, urdu.

                      2. re: luckyfatima
                        Caitlin McGrath Feb 19, 2010 02:13 PM

                        I most frequently see the spelling koobideh on Persian menus, and google will turn up plenty of hits with that spelling. Same thing or a close variation is often called luleh or lula kabab on Persian and, especially, Armenian menus.

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