Monday Meal Review: Afghanistan

Meal #1 on our Global Table Adventure. Our goal? To eat one meal from every country in the world.

Skipping Silverware

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 a simple proposal. Out of consideration for my friends, I had put a few forks by their plates – “just in case”they (or Mr. Picky) weren’t game. Even after everyone began eating with their hands, the challenge remained: not making a complete mess of our plates, our hands, and our faces. Even using a napkin became confusing; our hands just got dirty again.

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 caramelized 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.


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


  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 😀

  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!

    • Glad you made it over here Stephanie… you will love the braised eggplant. So easy and so flavorful. Make it with basmati rice 🙂

  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*


    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. Brian S. says

    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.

    • 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.

  5. Eric says

    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” ( 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

  6. 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.

  7. Erica says

    Jus found you and decided to try and work my way through your recipes. Afghanistan was a big hit, even with my kids!

  8. Susan Heine says

    Hi Sasha….Your GTA has been a source of joy and wonder for a few years now. Having just finished your book — Life From Scratch — I want to start the GTA all over again because you shared so much of your heart with me via your excellent writing. When I first found your food adventure blog it was time to plan a birthday party for a friend who travels to India several times a year. The meal to celebrate the cuisine of Afghanistan became the menu for her outdoor party. We sat near the river on bedspreads that looked Afghani, ate from platters that were set on large fabric swatches [ covering a mini-trampoline ] to create a low table. Garments from India were offered to guests and we shared a MemoryMeal together. June 26th is her birthday so it’s a great time to Re-Start the Global Table Adventure….that Afghani menu with warm Noni Bread is going into its 3rd year as a Birthday extravaganza and I’m ready to give a book review for those who gather at the end of June… encourage them to get to know the woman who has blessed us so much. Shalom, Susan

    • Sasha Martin says

      What a gift! I love how you’ve created a tradition of eating internationally with your friend to celebrate her birthday. The memories you’ve created are so much richer than any object one can purchase. Thanks for continuing the tradition – and send me pictures if you ever have the time. Hugs, Sasha

  9. Susan Heine says

    Hi Sasha, Great idea to send photos to you !! I’ll look for the photos from the 1st Afghani meal and will ask Krista to take new pictures this year. She’s knowledgeable about how to scan and send photos via email. Your book was so well written–I cried a few times because of the raw pain portrayed in the book. Having never experienced separation from my parents I can’t say I truly understand the depth of the sorrow of separation of mother and child or the lasting sadness of the death of a sibling….but so many of my friends have lived thru similar difficulties and your story has helped me to be wiser when we speak because their past is what makes them who they are. The pain they carry can be lightened just a bit by sharing colorful, creative meals, offering compassion and inspiring hope for the future. We pray together and trust our Heavenly Father to tenderly heal the hearts of all those whose childhood was sad. HE is close to the brokenhearted and to those who are crushed in spirit. I owe a great debt to my parents who raised their children on a Wisconsin dairy farm and made many sacrifices after the barn burned and they had to start over. Their kindness inspires me to be kind. My mother’s cooking & baking helped me learn to enjoy the home-arts which gave me the tools to offer homemade stew and freshly baked rolls to friends too burdened to even plan a menu. Sasha, your photos and “learn-along-with-me-writings” added a fresh International joy to our hospitality…Thank you. If you lived next door I’d be keeping the windows open to inhale the beauty of the cuisines of The World. Shalom, Susan H.

  10. Susan Heine says

    Hi Sasha, We were surprised at the deliciousness of the Afghan Spinach Dip and Noni Bread….not sure why I wait 12 months to make these fragrant recipes. We took photos and will be sending them to you soon. Shalom, Susan Heine

  11. Courtney says

    We started our own adventure tonight with most of this meal. My 6 year old loved cooking and trying the new flavors, and even my super picky 4 year old devoured the firnee. Thank you for such a wonderful way to explore the world from our kitchen!

  12. Diana says

    I’m coming to the party late but I just read your book and eating around the world is something my husband and I have talked about doing for years. We jumped in tonight with this Afghan meal and were amazed at how tasty it was. Looking forward to this journey. Thanks!

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