Monday Meal Review: Afghanistan

This is Meal #1 in my personal challenge: to eat one meal from every country in the world.

No one moved an inch.

Afghan music tiptoed softly about the room. Steam rose from our plates.

I knew, as hostess to our dinner party of four, I had to make the first move.

Holding my breath, I dipped my fingers into the slimy eggplant and brought the food to my lips. There was a pause.

“Wow. This is…. good!” I said.

The tension gave way to giggles.

My friends gingerly dug their fingers into their meal. I waited, searching their faces.

One by one, they smiled. “Yes, this is good!”

Skipping silverware is not simple. The challenge lies in not making a complete mess of your plate, your hand, and your face. Even using a napkin becomes confusing; your hands just get dirty again.

Yet, I can’t get over how much enjoyment I got out of being so uncomfortable.

The awkward experience of using my hand as silverware gave me a fresh dining experience. I kept a running inventory of textures in my head: soft, dry, slippery, crumbly, soupy. Then I matched the texture to the flavors: spicy, sweet, tangy, earthy, garlicky.

Afghanistan certainly was a good start to cooking my way around the world, one meal at a time! I struggle to share a favorite dish. Perhaps the eggplant Burani Bonjon for its smoky, spicy flavors? Or the Noni for being so soft and warm? Or the spinach dip for having one of my favorite ingredients, sweet carmelized onions? Or what about the Kabeli Palau, so hearty and bold?

Kabeli Palau

Certainly, the most unusual dish was the Firnee.  This distinctly eastern dessert proudly smacks of cardamom and rose water, both of which were foreign to my palette.  I required several bites to get past the illusion that perfume was in my mouth. After the initial shock, however, I began to enjoy how the fragrance permeated the creamy custard.

Firnee

Ava’s Corner: Ava tried a small piece of the chicken. We were rewarded with a big smile. She actually used her gums to chew the chicken and she happily pushed the new flavors around in her mouth. Then she got to lick the insides of an apricot which, by her blank expression, she found to be “just okay.”

Dried Apricots

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Comments

  1. aunty eileen says:

    Enjoyed so much reading and seeing the results of all your effort. All the courses of food look so delicious. hmmm a photographer also? : ) (maybe you should watermark your pictures : )

    I also liked very much the music clip. It is the type of music the family next door listen to… it is in their blood and maybe in mine a bit also as I always like it when going to their parties.

    I haven’t seen the “more photos” yet, but I will… thank you for such a wonderful site and sharing it with everyone. GREAT JOB Sasha!

    And I wish you a good restful morning after a weekend of busy and enjoyable hard work.

    Cheers from Aunty Eileen & Uncle Paul also

    p.s. any leftovers? I LOVE leftovers : )

    • Thank you so much! :) I am glad you enjoyed the review. I had not given any thought to water marking, but it may be a good idea.

      Oh – yes, there are leftovers… we’ll enjoy them tonight :D

  2. Hi – found your website through BabyCenter June 09 Club. Loved these posts. I love Afghan food, it’s delicious. Will have to find an Indian market in my area, or at the very least, make the braised eggplant!

  3. It’s 9:52 PM, the phone rings and yippee!…no school tomorrow… snow day! …..

    I read on…. this meal sounds wonderful. However, I can’t get past the rose water. I am familar with the smell since I spray it on my face everyday!

    Heritage Products sells a refreshingly wonderful
    all-in-one Rosewater (facial toner spritzer) and body splash, hair rinse, bathwater and, get this….gourmet flavoring! Did I mention that it is all-in one bottle..

    After reading Sasha’s Monday Meal Review,
    I felt inspired to taste this liquid rose petal….soooo..

    *fan sticks tongue out, fan spritzes mouth with rosewater but holds mouth open and waits for her courage that will allow the magic of tasting to happen*

    Ready-Set-go!

    It’s a strange but tantalizing taste.. ..I liked your descriptive words; “foreign, illusion and shock..” Totally agree, but I would love to taste a “meal” with this rosewater…

    Next mission: off for a resturant adventure..I think there is an Afghanistan resturant fairly close by…

    …thank you.

    I await more of your world reaching provisions.
    <3 xo

  4. P.S. really great pictures!

  5. This brings back memories. The highlight of life in a smaller Afghan town is (or was) the chaikhana, or teahouse (the word means tea-eat) where a coin buys a cup of tea from a big bubbling samovar and endless conversation. Handmade Persian carpets on the dirt floor, sometimes it’s open-air with the sky above. You lounge on the carpets and sip your tea, and maybe you get food too, and usually it’s Qabili palau. My guess is the reference to Kabul in the name is a status symbol, suggesting the recipe came from the King’s kitchen, since the King lived in Kabul.

    Here’s some Afghan village music to listen to as you eat your pilau.

    http://music.myspace.com/Modules/MusicV2/Pages/PopUpPlayer.aspx?songid=45182470&artid=18422078

    • Brian, Thank you for sharing this. I love the idea of eating this meal under the night stars… in summer. Bliss!

      So far the eggplant dish is my favorite dish to date… mmmm I can’t get enough of it.

  6. I find this blog to be utterly fascinating. For being a foodie and very interested in other cultures, it is difficult to believe that I just stumbled upon this today while looking up a recipe for “rougaille”!

    I was planning on taking a similar cultural journey; I have “The Travel Book” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Travel-Book-Lonely-Planet/dp/1741044510) and was planning on making my way through the countries of the world, eating what they eat, drinking what they drink, reading travel blogs/literature and listening to their music – it all seems so fun! Too bad I don’t yet have enough time or money to start. Perhaps within the next few years.

    Your blog is an inspiration to any of us who have thought of a culinary tour around the world – I will be using your recipes as a springboard for my future endeavors.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience, you have truly no idea just how much I appreciate reading this.

    Greetings from Madison, WI
    Eric Bowron

  7. I just found out about your food adventure yesterday, and I was so excited because I wanted to eat meals from every country and started a couple of years ago. I tried going in alphabetical order and never got past Afghanistan because I couldn’t find good recipes. Thanks for sharing all of your recipes! I made three of the Afghanistan dishes tonight and enjoyed the eggplant the best.

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