Sunday, February 17, 2008
Kabul on a Plate
I had the distinct privilege of having a superb home-cooked Afghan meal thanks to the remarkable hospitality and generosity of our friend and his mother, Mrs. O. I hope this post will do her amazing cooking justice.
In one day, she managed to make five things -- all of which were delicious.
My personal favorite was Bohlahni, flat bread stuffed with potatoes and green onions and baked to perfection. It was so versatile that we ended up having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as an in-between snack. The skin is soft like crepe but also rises and toasts to a slight crunchiness. If you like spicy, sprinkle some fine red pepper flakes. The combination of the soft potatoes, green onions and the spices is heavenly.
The massive rice dish (above) is Shoala, also called heavy rice. It has chunks of beef, lentils and many other aromatic herbs and spices that complement each other very nicely. I tasted some parsley and something like cumin but can't place all of the ingredients.
This rice dish pairs well with an eggplant dish called Bourani Bauhnjahn, which is like a casserole of eggplant, tomatoes and aromatics. The striped eggplant slices and juice from tomatoes created a delectable sauce that was eagerly absorbed by the "heavy" rice. Top that with a home-made garlic-infused yogurt sauce that adds a refreshing touch to the rice and eggplant dishes and we're in business.
Then there was the wonderful green peas dish, Matar, which went so well with the white basmati rice cooked with a tinge of oil to fluffy perfection. The peas were at once silky, slightly crunchy and delightfully saucy.
I mourn the fact that LA doesn't have a great Afghan restaurant, even compared to Tempe, AZ. I try to go to Fremont in the Bay Area -- where we liked Salang Pass Restaurant on Fremont Blvd. -- whenever we visit but it's quite a trek from San Francisco. I haven't been to Chopan Kebab House, a hole in the wall in Northridge as it was closed by the time we made it there once. Azeen's Afghani Restaurant in Pasadena was disappointing and I wouldn't go back.
Stay tuned as I'll try to post at least once recipe (likely of the Bohlahni) here.
Thank you, Mrs. O!