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So what can you expect to eat in Afghanistan?
I think the main word that comes to mind is 'well'. Afghans mostly love to cook and should you be lucky enough to be invited in to their home you will see on the table a spread that most of us would call a banquet.
As you would expect the Afghan cuisine is built around the food crops grown in the area and these are mainly wheat, rice, barley and maize. Most dishes will contain one or all of the following: nuts, vegetables, dried and fresh fruits yogurt and whey and of course being a country rich in spices, a huge array of delicate spices.
An Afghan spread, will always contain bread and there are three main types of bread:
Naan which is mainly made from white whole wheat flour, flat and topped with seeds.
Obi Non: More disk shaped and thicker also made from wheat flour.
Lavash: Common across Middle East served with meats and stews.
Rice is very widely used in all Afghan diets and listed below are a few example dishes and their contents. They use many different types of rice, and spend many hours getting just the right texture for each dish they serve.
The national dish is Palao and you should expect to see this dish everywhere which consists of meat and stock, topped with fried raisins, slivered carrots, and pistachios. This dish has many variations with caramelized sugar creating a rich brown colour to the rich in some dishes.
Zamarod Palao includes spinach,
Yakhni Palao has a rich brown rice,
Narenj Palao – Is sweeter with saffron, orange peel, pistachios, almonds and chicken.
Alou Balou Palao - Sweet rice dish with cherries and chicken.
These are just a few and if you are unsure ask what the ingredients are, I am sure your problem won’t be knowing too little about the food you are eating; rather too much as Afghans really enjoy the whole food experience.
Then you have Qorma, which is basically ‘stew’. But not just any old stew. Once again the name will denote what stew it is,
Qorma Alou-Bokhara wa Dalnakhod – Will be Veal or Chicken in an onion based stock with sour plums, lentils, and cardamom.
Qorma Nadroo – Once again onion based, but this time with yogurt, lotus roots, cilantro, and coriander.
Qorma Lawand – Chicken, lamb or beef with an onion base, yogurt, turmeric, and cilantro.. Qorma Sabzi – Lamb, sautéed spinach and other greens.
Qorma Shalgham – Lamb with an onion base, turnips, sugar; ( a sweet and sour taste.)
I am reliably informed that there are over 100 Qormas so as long as you remember it’s a stew; ask what meat, you will not be disappointed. Just think if you are there for 100 days you could have a different Qorma every night. What other cuisine has that huge choice.
Pasta is called Khameerbob and is more in the style of dumplings that are steamed or boiled. The sauces vary as in all pasta type dishes and may be a speciality of each region, so well worth trying if you travel a lot. Some soups contain noodles, boiled with the soup.
Lastly on your brief introduction to Afghan food, is of course the Kebab. Due to its popularity worldwide I don’t think I need to explain much about this. Lamb is the most common and it will almost certainly be spiced. In restaurants they will serve the Kebab with Naan. You will also find in better restaurants kebabs made from Chicken, Beef.
A Chapli kebab, a specialty of eastern Afghanistan, consisting of half meat half flour and shaped and fried like a hamburger.
Various sweet dishes consisting of sweetened yoghurt, sugar, also sweet pastries, but my guess is that you will be so full of the wonderful savoury dishes that there will be no room for puds.