How to eat like an Afghan

I imagine when people think of Afghan cuisine, they think hot, spicy, and I expect a mish-mash of all the Middle Eastern dishes they’ve seen or tasted: baklava, fattoush, to name some of the popular ones. Although most of these are eaten all other the Middle East, you mustn’t forget that each country has their own specific dishes, those they can call their own. This why I want to share with you how to eat like an Afghan.

As with most Middle Eastern cultures, Afghans treat their guests with the upmost respect and will go to great lengths to give the best spread of food.

Where is Afghanistan exactly?

  • Afghanistan is located in South and Central Asia
  • It is a landlocked country
  • It has Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China as its neighbours
  • The Capital is the city of Kabul
  • The official language is pashto/dari
  • The religion is islam

What is the national dish?

The national dish of Afghanistan is Kabuli Palaw – rice with carrots, raisins and lamb. Apparently before girls are married, they are taught how to make this dish because they would bring shame on the family if they didn’t know how to cook it.

Afghan Cuisine has influences from – 

  • Iran
  • India
  • Mongolia

How to eat like an Afghan

What would I eat for breakfast?

In Afghanistan for breakfast you would eat the following –

  • Lots of eggs, either fried with vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers (there are many different kinds)
  • Roht, a sweet bread
  • Alwa which is a type of fried semolina
  • Paneer cheese maybe on its own or with raisins
  • Sambosa, a savoury pastry which is filled with meat
  • You would drink a sweet chai tea

What would I eat for lunch?

  • You would drink lassi, a yoghurt drink which is sometimes salted. It apparently helps to digest the food
  • You might also drink doogh, a drink made from yoghurt, water and mint – in the summertime to cool down
  • You would most definitely eat some naan bread or flatbread
  • An Afghan lunch is very similar to an Afghan dinner – big meals are eaten for both. It would definitely consist of a wide variety of meat and rice dishes (see below)

afghan-inspired-pumpkin-curry-1
Veggelicious’s Kaddo Bourani recipe is roasted with sugar and cinnamon, making it the perfect warming meal for cold evenings 

What would I eat for dinner?

  • Like most Middle Eastern countries, Afghans like to eat a spread of ‘sharing’ dishes made mainly from rice, meat and vegetables.
  • The national dish, Kabuli Palaw is most likely to be served (see above)
  • Lamb kebab is very popular, usually served with rice (usually chalow rice – the fluffy kind)
  • Kaddo Bourani  like the one above – a sweet pumpkin curry
  • Potato salad and beef kebabs (perhaps separate like Searching For Spice notes, however they seem like a great combo to me!)
  • Lamb and spinach stew
  • Saaj kebab – goat and sheep meat cooked over a real fire; usually eaten at special occasions such as Eid or a wedding
  • Qorma; sort of like a casserole made with meat or vegetables, like my kidney bean slow-cooker qorma recipe
  • An appetiser might be Sabse Borani, a spinach and yoghurt filled flatbread
  • Mantu – steamed dumplings filled with minced meat or onions topped with a tomato or yoghurt sauce (this is where the Mongolian influence comes in)
  • Ashak – dumplings filled with chives and topped with a garlic yoghurt sauce
  • A salad would often be prepared

spinach and yoghurt flatbreads
Sabse Borani (above) – flatbreads traditionally filled with onion, garlic, yoghurt and spinach

What would I eat after dinner? 

  • Fruit is eaten a lot in Afghanistan, especially pomegranates, sweet melons, apricots, plums, berries and grapes
  • You’ll most likely drink some more tea (in small cups) – when you’ve had enough, you should turn your cup over or else your cup will be forever re-filled
  • Sweet, melt-in-the mouth cookies such as Kulche-ab-e-dandaan (mostly on special occasions or if there are guests)
  • You might also drink some coffee, also drank in small cups

Afghan eating culture and traditions 

  • Women and men usually eat separately but I guess it depends how strictly religious the family are. Families will eat together if only in company of close family members
  • The best dishes are always placed near where the guest is sitting
  • Dinners are usually eaten on a dastarkhan, a tablecloth laid on the floor – you must never step on or over it
  • Cutlery is not usually used – you use your hands to scoop up the food (or a naan) and you would only use your right hand
  • A guest will always be offered the place of honour at the head of the table

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How to eat like an Afghan

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References

Sbs.com

The Afghan perspective

Afghan Cultured Unveiled

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