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Jun 7, 2008 06:37 AM

Afghani Cuisine [from UK/Ireland]

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?

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  1. 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

      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. 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

        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

          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. 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. 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

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

              1. re: luckyfatima

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                            .>>>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

                              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.

              2. 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

                  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.