The culinary specialties of Afghan cuisine reflect its geographic and ethnic diversity. A culture that has been in existence for more than two millennia, Afghanistan is primarily a rural and tribal society. Different regions will speak their own native language, but still most of the people are multi-lingual.
The foods of Afghanistan will exhibit influences from cultures such as Pakistan (which used to part of Afghanistan), the Pashtun people, Central Asia and Persia. Afghans living in the large cities, such as Kabul, will also show in their cuisine preferences some Influence from Indian culture – probably due to the TV, movie, and music industries more prevalent in cosmopolitan areas.
Islam is by far the most prevalent religion, so Afghan cuisine reflects that extremely heavy influence. Islamic traditions, world views, holidays, dress mannerisms, music preferences, as well as the kinds of foods eaten, are common to almost every region in the country. Because of this steadfast adherence to the tenets of Islam, you will not find pork, or the use and/or serving of alcohol, for instance, in authentic and traditional Afghan cuisine.
Kabuli Palaw is the national dish of Afghanistan, and a classic example of Afghan cuisine. Chicken Kormo is another. Both of these dishes are offered here on this page, among others.
The majority of the foods dishes are based on their primary agricultural crops, such as barley, rice, maize (corn) and wheat. Along with these staples, Afghan cuisine also features dairy products: yogurt, whey and milk, most notably. And the cuisine also is well adorned with native vegetables and fruits. Some of the finest quality grapes, sweet football-shaped melons, berries, plums, apricots, and a wide variety of oranges are produced in the country. And of course the pomegranates that come out of Afghanistan are famous for their superior quality worldwide. Afghan cuisine uses this vast array of fine fruits in exquisite fashion.
Nuts and seeds, like pine nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios and almonds are plentiful and popular. Preferred spices and herbs in traditional Afghan cuisine include cilantro, cardamom, black peppermint, saffron, and coriander. By far the most popular meats are chicken and lamb.
It can be said that Afghan cuisine places the most importance on producing meals that are well-balanced, feature tastes and textures that have a pleasing contrast to each other, and overall are neither bland or overly spicy.
If you are invited into a traditional Afghanistan home for dinner, you will be treated to the eating ritual of “Dastarkhan” – which is the name for how, in traditional Afghan Cuisine, a dinner meal is served.
The floor carpet rug is an important cultural expression in Afghanistan. Whether of high economic status, or relatively poor, providing an adequate dastarkhan is of importance to any and all families. This becomes especially true when having guests for a meal.
You sit cross-legged on the floor, on the outer edges of a very large tablecloth that has been spread over the home’s traditional carpet rug. A youthful family member will typically present the “aftabah wa lagan”, which is a beautifully crafted copper basin and an elaborate pot filled with water.
You eat with your hands (actually your right hand, only, in strict Muslim fashion), so cleanliness is very important. The young person will go around to each guest (as well as the other family members, but guests first) and pour fresh water over their hands. You are presented with soap, and, once your hands are cleaned, you have a cloth to dry them.
Once everyone’s hands are freshly cleaned, then the dastarkhan is formally ready to begin. Out of the kitchen and placed onto the tablecloth will come fresh baked breads, appetizers, relishes, rice, salads, fruits, main entrees, and various accompaniments. Proper attention is paid to how the foods are arranged and spread out. It is most important to the host that the guests have easiest access to the dishes.
And now, enough of the background, let’s get into what you really came to this page for. Some delicious, authentic and traditional recipes of …
Note: For your convenience, click on the dish titles in the list below, and you will be taken to a print-friendly page with that one specific recipe on it.
Afghani Mutton Shorba (Mutton stew, mildly spiced and sumptuous)
Chicken Korma (Chicken in a spicy and creamy yogurt sauce)
Kabuli Lamb Pulao (Steamed rice with raisins, vegetables and lamb)
Korme Kofta (Afghan Lamb Meatballs in a rich tomato-based sauce)
Noni Afghani (Afghan flat bread)
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