Time to savour Afghan food

Time to savour Afghan food

Afghan restaurants are mushrooming all around City

Delhi is home to people of many nationalities – refugee Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Burmese, Tibetans etc. but unknown to many, a large Afghan community resides in the heart of the Capital, Lajpat Nagar.

These fair and handsome people, most of whom made India home during the Taliban rule, have set themselves up in Lajpat Nagar and adjoining areas. As a result, a host of restaurants have also come up run by the Afghans and sometimes by Indians employing Afghan chefs.

The Kabul Delhi restaurant, situated in Central Market, was the first to come up and is now fairly popular.

Its owner Hashmat Pirzada of Kabul informs us, “Earlier, only Afghan Hindus and Sikhs used to come to Delhi. From the 80s to the early 2000s, as violence escalated, many Afghan Muslims also migrated. Thankfully, with the Taliban ousted, the exodus has stopped. Now, Afg­h­ans come for medical aid, business purposes and to visit relatives.

As most of the hospitals – private as well as government are nearby, and the place offers cheap accommodation too, Lajpat Nagar has become a favourite us.”
As the number of Afghans in the area burgeoned, the demand for authentic Afghan food also increased. Restaurant owners inform Metrolife that Afghan cuisine is not very different from North Indian food - the only difference being that it uses lesser spice and bagfuls of dry fruits.

Ahmed Fawad Ahmedi, who was born in Delhi and considers himself a Delhiite now, owns two restros here – Afghan Darbar and Mazaar. The latter one, he says, is named after Mazaar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, a pilgrimage spot also famous for food, from where his mother hails.

He says, “We do brisk business round the year but the sales peak during winter when a lot of Afghans come here for sightseeing.”

“That is also the reason you would find non-vegetarian items mostly on our menu. As opposed to common belief, vegetarian food is not altogether alien to Afghan cuisine, just that it is cooked in homes mostly and not much outside.” The staple, of course, remains the big, fat Afghan naan, made of atta, which lasts two to three days at least. Full families sit down to have their meals from the same naans. They also have stuffed parathas with fillings of potatoes and spring onions called Bolanis.

Then comes the national dish - Kabuli Pulav made of rice, carrots and dry fruits.
In vegetables, they make everything from Brinjal to Okra and Rajma. Just that the names are different – Borani Banjan and Saalan Baamia. In non-veg, things remain almost the same – Lamb seekh kebab, Mutton Tikka, Fry chicken, Tandoori chicken, Qorma Kofta, Mutton Korma and Chicken Korma etc.

There is not much variety in desserts other than Phirni, Kheer and Fruit Salad. Ahmed, though, claims that he has another sweet dish from Afghanistan which no other Afghan resto in India has – Sheer Yakh made of Afghan ice cream topped with saffron syrup, pistachios, almonds and cardamom.