Cookbook:Cuisine of Afghanistan
Afghanistan has a wide varying landscape allowing for many different crops. Afghan food is largely based upon the nation's chief crops: cereals like wheat, maize, barley and rice . Accompanying these staples are dairy products (yogurt, whey), various nuts, and native vegetables, and fresh and dried fruits; Afghanistan is well known for its grapes. Afghanistan's culinary specialties reflect its ethnic and geographic diversity and has similarities with neighboring Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan
Kabul influence on Afghan cuisine
Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, is a multi-ethnic city and has always been so. As the seat of government for the Pashtun Afghan kings, food was an important part of royal life. Chefs were commissioned from all over the empire and places afar. They are credited for creating a myriad of dishes, blending different styles and in the process creating the best examples of true Afghan cooking. Their creations include exotic kormas, palaos, sumptious rice dishes, desserts, and other creative items. These royal chefs passed down their art to aristocrat denizens of Kabul, they in turn to others. Several attempts were made to record the arts of the royal chefs. Two such publications have been published. The first one, published in Afghanistan in the early 1900s recorded the ingredients and cooking styles of Afghanistan's monarchy. The second, called Aushpazi, by Wali Zikria, published in the United States in English, during the early 1990s, was essentially the cookbook of one of Afghanistan's royal houses.
Known as the destarkhan or sofrah, the table spread is an important expression of culture in Afghanistan. Regardless of economic status, creating an adequate destarkhan is important to any family, especially when having guests. A large cloth will most likely be spread over a traditional rug in the living area or on a formal dining table. Most likely a young member of the family will present a "aftabah wa lagan", a copper basin and elaborate pot filled with water for the household to wash their hands in. He or she will go around the destarkhan to each member, pour water over the hands. Soap is provided, as is a drying cloth. The destarkhan is then dutifully filled with breads, accompaniments, relishes, appetizers, main courses, salads, rice, and fruits. Arrangement of foods is important when having guests; they must have easy access to the specialty foods. Young children are taught how to spread a good destarkhan and will be busy helping their parents.
Breads and accompaniment
There are mainly three types of Afghan bread
- Naan - Literally "bread". Thin, long and oval shaped, its mainly a white/whole wheat blend. Topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, or some combination of these. Upon request, customers may be able to get all white flour and helping of oil, which makes it rich and delicious.
- Obi Non - Uzbek-style bread. Shaped like a disc and thicker than naan. Usually made with white flour.
- Lavash - Very thin bread. Similar to the Lavash elsewhere. Usually used as plating for meats and stews.
- Torshi - Various pickled fruits (i.e., peaches) and vegetables (eggplant, garlic, lemon) mixed with vinegar and spices.
- Chatney - Pepper sauces. Usually made with vinegar, fresh cilantro, chili peppers, and sometimes tomato paste.