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  • Writer's pictureNini

Qabuli Pilau: Afghanistan's tasty dish

It's another day, it's a new month, and now we are only two months away from 2020 to be over! I mean, it's crazy to think that we have already finished with the year. I genuinely don't feel as if I have done anything remotely exciting at all this year. Just reminiscing on how a lot has changed like social interactions with people, heading to restaurants to dine out, travel, and wearing a mask has become the norm. My face now feels genuinely naked if I don't wear a mask when going to the "outside" world. I miss it all; right now, I feel envious of people traveling or who could travel before Corona disrupted everything but right now, sitting on a plane for around 8 hours makes me feel a bit anxious. However, I still want to travel, so similar to how I Travelled to the Mediterranean in my last blog post, I decided that I will do a little series called Travel Eats! So that I can fulfill my urge to travel and also to eat delicious food. Funnily enough, I found there is a website called tasteatlas where one can discover a countries national ingredients, dishes, and restaurants! So this should be fun.

In this series I will chose a country randomly in alphabetical order and create a popular dish from that region. This time in the kitchen we are heading to Afghanistan to make Qabuli Pilau!

Afghanistan is one place that I would like to visit as I have some connection to the country, being that my great grandfather from my mother's side was from there. Before the Russians invaded the country in 1980 (to inflict a communist government), and before the Taliban caused havoc, my grandmother would often say it was once a thriving destination, especially in Kabul. As none of my mother's siblings have visited Afghanistan, my grandfather and my great grandmother would always tell stories of this beautiful country. Not only were stories were shared, but so was food. When my mother or my aunts would cook a feast for a family get-together or an Eid celebration, there was always an afghan dish on the table. It's interesting how we uphold cultural values through food. When my aunts or my mother make a particular afghan dish, they relate to a story or memory to which my great grandmother had told them. Which, in my mind, makes that dish that more special to make. One of the frequent dishes my mother loves to make is Borani (or Borani Banjan as google states). It is a delicious dish made with layers of eggplant, cooked tomato, and plain natural yoghurt. There are thousands of variations/recipes; one could layer the components together, but we usually fry the eggplant and then placed a cooked tomato sauce over the eggplant, then the plain yoghurt. However, the Borani dish is not the highlight of this blog post; it is a dish which accompanies well with the Borani. Generally, when we make the borani, we always have a pilau (chicken, vegetable, or lamb) with it, so this time around, I decided that I would make Qabuli Pilau!

Now Qabuli Pilau is my all-time favourite dish. It is the national dish of Afghanistan, and it includes some delicious, tender lamb, some fragrant spices, a tad bit of sweetness with the caramelized carrots and raisins oh, and the main component rice. I could eat rice every day; to be honest, I just love it. After reading this blog post from an Afghani lady named Humaira, The dish originated within Kabul's upper-class families who could afford and prepare the lavish rice dish. However, when it became affordable to buy the lavish ingredients of meat, carrots, raisins, and nuts, the name had changed from Kabuli Palau to Qabili Palau. The Dari word Qabil - means well accomplished, indicating that only a skilled chef can genuinely balance this dish's various flavors. Also, Humaira and other articles that I have read, an Afghani women's marriage prospects depend on whether she can make a good Qabuli Pilau. I'm guessing the saying the way to a man's heart is through his stomach came from the Afghani's.

Now I have always had Qabuli Pilau when I go to a restaurant or when my mother makes it. So making it for the first time, I was over the moon! I was so excited how it came out, the meat was tender, I could taste the spices, and most importantly, the rice didn't mush together. To know if you have made a good pilau is when you can see each grain of spiced rice. I was so excited; I made my very first pilau! Making pilau is a very rigorous process, that's why usually when making pilau, mum always made it for guests, not for us. Although this time around, I was thinking, why can't we feast like kings? I was craving this Qabuli Pilau! The first time making the Qabuli Pilau, we didn't have Borani (as I couldn't find eggplants at the time), so with it, I had made some potatoes with mustard seeds and french beans and cucumber raita. The second time I had made the Qabuli Pilau, I had it with Borani and Palak Paneer (this time around, I had my friends over try it), so obviously made some more food. What made the process easy for me to make the Qabuli Pilau was the pressure cooker. Instead of cooking the lamb in a pot and continuously monitoring and stirring it until it got tender, I placed the lamb pieces in the pressure cooker for 6 hours until it got tender, which was great. The only problem, though, by doing the step of boiling the yakhni (the stock) with the sugar, I had to wait until the meat was done to get the stock to continue further with making the pilau. It was a very long process, but patience was key! Now I need to make the pilau a few more times to become a professional.

This is the recipe I used to make the Qabuli Pilau, which is great because there is also a small step by step video, which helps if you are making it for the first time. Try it out! It is simpler than it looks; you just need to give yourself time to make it.

That's my adventure in Afghanistan; there are definitely more recipes I can share, such as Borani and Ash (another favourite of mine); perhaps later on, I can share the recipes. Started my food adventure in Asia, now it's time to research and consider where my hungry stomach should travel next. I'm thinking of traveling to another continent; it's either between Belgium, Bolivia, Burundi, Burkino Faso, Brazil, The Bahamas, or Belize. I'll decipher the country from which has the most mouthwatering recipes. Although if you are reading this blog post and would like to share a recipe, please do! My palate would be very interested. Stay tuned for more on my series of travel eats, the posts may not be as frequent, but I will try.

Thanks for reading, have a great month ahead.


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