The afternoon part of our Afghani Food Tour brought us into West Hartford Center to the restaurant called Shish Kebab House of Afghanistan. We were treated to a tasty appetizer of light pancakes filled with potato and scallion, with two different dipping sauces served alongside. The owner's son gave us some history on his family, including how his father escaped from Afghanistan during the Communist takeover and made his way to the United States, starting the restaurant over 20 years ago.
We were led into the kitchen, one of the cleanest kitchens Chris and I have ever seen in all our years working in restaurants, and we had an hour-long lesson in some of the secrets of Afghani food. We learned how to cook the fluffy, delicious Basmati rice (see photo) for which Afghani cuisine is famous. We learned how to enhance the rice and make it into a meal by adding different ingredients, such as almonds, cardamom, raisins and carrots (a dish known as kabuli palow). The cooks taught us how to make homemade yogurt and to use it as a condiment for sliced fried eggplant with tomato sauce (a dish called brony bonjan pictured above in preparation and below being plated). Finally, we learned the secret to Shish Kebab's famously delectable rice pudding (but we won't tell).
When the cooking lesson was over, we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch. We drank hot Afghani tea, made with black tea, milk, cardamom and beet juice. We tasted the eggplant dish we had learned to make, along with chicken and lamb kebabs that had been marinated overnight and were seasoned with sumac to give them a light lemony finish. Our luncheon by scraping up every grain from our dish of homemade rice pudding.
The myriad of spices, the reliance on fresh, homemade products, and thousands of years of experience make Afghani cuisine an interesting, healthy, and distinctive one to explore. We're glad we have, and we encourage our readers to as well.