Encouraging friendliness with neighbours, Le Meridien Delhi held a festival of food from the SAARC countries. Got a taste of Afghanistan at eau de Monsoon.

cuisine from AfghanistanWords and photos: Ambica Gulati

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, to a woman’s as well. And the flavours at this festival proved that. It also cut through some misconceptions I had such as Afghanis were only fond of meats and rolls. What I tasted was some really good green vegetable soup and dishes. Another interesting aroma was the flavours and fragrances of spices. The people behind this food curation were Chef Fraidoon Gul Ahmad and Manager Saman Nayananda from Serena Hotel, Kabul.

All that was listed on the menu matched the Indian palate. There was enough choice between fish, chicken, red meat and vegetables. And to know the secret of the greens, Nayananda said that you had to travel beyond Kabul to know what the nation ate.

Like us, the traditional eating style is with hands. There is ample use of nuts, saffron, black pepper, cardamom. And the people from Afghanistan like eating their food with rotis and naans. The pulaos make for another common bond. Avoiding the better known baklava for dessert, I saw two more choices, namely Sheer Brinj and Moulida.

After finding so many common aromas, all I needed to do was enjoy the relaxed ambience and dig into all that was served. As I am not a red meat eater, I avoided the lamb dishes but the fish was an unexpected pleasant surprise. What was interesting though that there was less use of oil, more of natural nuts and even pickle had vinegar and not oil. I didn’t find our favourite turmeric and red chilly too!

cuisine from AfghanistanAnd fruits do prevail in certain dishes, as I realised with the Naranj Pulao which was rice flaoured with candied orange peels, cooked in cSheer Brinj, cuisine from Afghanistanhicken broth with chicken halves and garnished with almonds, pistachios and raisins. The orange peels really made it a flavourful dish. Another interesting dish was the Lablaboo salad with beetroot, lemon juice, olive oil, olives and nuts.

But my piece de resistance vote went for the Sheer Brinj which was rice and milk pudding cooked with rose water, pistachio, almonds and raisins. This is the one dish which I plan to learn how to cook.

And next time, I plan to keep more time to savour the delicacies for the food from Afghanistan needs to be experienced and not rushed.