Culinary Curiosity: The blended fragrance of Afghan
Afghanistan’s location straddling significant centres of cultures like Greece, Rome, Persia, India, China and Central Asia meant that its culinary heritage was influenced by travellers, pilgrims and conquerors who traversed its rugged landlocked terrain. The cuisine of the land reflects its ethnic diversity. The largest ethnic groups are the Pashtuns and Tajiks, but smaller tribes like the Uzbeks and Hazaras have their own unique cuisines.
Rice and wheat are widely consumed and can range from a simple naan bread to complex pulao where rice is cooked with copious quantities of nuts, raisins, caramelised carrots and onions. A flatbread called bolani stuffed with vegetables is commonly consumed as is mantou a meat stuffed dumpling, clearly of Chinese and Central Asian ancestry. Meats can be grilled as kabobs or slow- cooked in gravies called kormas.
Afghans often use yoghurt as a cooking ingredient, drink, an accompaniment, with dried mint and cucumber, or preserved into a cheese called quroot. A meal often ends with dried fruit, green tea and nuts, though elaborate pastries like Gosh-e-feel, an elephant-ear shaped fried pastry, is sometimes enjoyed. Fruits like pomegranates and berries are plentiful and often dried on rooftops in summer, then crushed with nuts providing instant nutrition to travelling nomadic tribes.
In a land where individual identity is strongly linked to tribal affiliations, the Afghan diaspora finds comfort in their shared heritage and food. By 1992, 20% of the population had left Afghanistan taking with them a piece of their fascinating culture and food to the world.
Cindy Samadi, whose family runs the Samadi Restaurant in Auckland, speaks of the help and kindness of total strangers in New Zealand that helped reunite her parents and six siblings escaping war-torn Afghanistan in 1985. The family retains its connection with Afghanistan through “sharing the recipes that have been passed down the generations”, some of which are her mother’s childhood favourites. To her, extending the legendary Afghan warmth and hospitality brings “people together” and transports the diner “to a different place and time”.
To experience Samadi’s hospitality, make an advance booking.
Unit A/11 Point Chevalier Road, Point Chevalier, Auckland 1022
Phone: 09-846 9955