As indicated in a previous post, today I will go over my experiences with Afghan foods.
Naan is the most basic of these foods. In Dari the word can be used as the generic term for food. When talking about bread however, most Afghans use the term "Naan e Khushk" which translates to dry bread. Afghan naan is thicker than its Indian cousin you may have seen in restaurants. It is the staple with and by which an Afghan meal is eaten. In a traditional Afghan meal the food is eaten with the bare hands or pinched between a small piece of naan. I really enjoy the naan I have had here. Most naan I have seen or eaten in Afghanistan has a circular imprint like it was pressed between two hub cabs.
Palau is a small island country in the Pacific Ocean, but in the context of Afghan food it is something entirely different. Spiced rice with bits of almonds, raisins, occasionally carrots or meat is palau. The Afghan people eat palau almost as much as they eat naan. When not using naan e khushk to eat palau it is picked up with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers in a trough like configuration. The thumb is then used as a piston to drive the palau into your mouth.
Kebab is another main food group. It is prepared on metal skewers. Sometimes it is all meat(goat, beef, or sheep) and other times I have seen large pieces of fat placed between the pieces of meat. I ate the fat a few times when offered a skewer of kebab this way until I observed my interpreter pull off the fat and set it to the side. If only I had known earlier I could have done the same without offending anyone! All the kebab I have ingested has been well cooked and tasty. You can either pull the meat off the skewer with your hands or with some naan.
As with most things, salad is different here. There are most of the same basic ingredients: leafy plants, carrots, onions and cucumbers. The main difference is the preparation. Most salads here are minced to the point that they may even appear to be pre-chewed. Generally it is served with oil and/or vinegar already mixed in.
Meat or gusht can also be served in a gravy sauce. The color is almost always brown, of course. It is good and goes well over the palau, or along side. The naan dips nicely into the gravy as well.
That covers the major food groups, but what about snack foods? Any meeting with an Afghan will involve at least a little snack food and chai. The main snack foods I have seen are dried corn kernels, almonds whole in the shell, raisins, and small dried noodles similar to dried lo mein noodles found in a can in most US grocery stores. To be polite you must at least try some of the snacks offered.
Then there is the chai. Chai is tea. There are both green tea and black tea versions I have sipped in Afghanistan. It is usually boiling hot when served, so taking your time to let it cool and sip as you converse is the best option. It is most fortunate that it is served so hot, since the cups in my experience are rarely washed. You may find bits of leaves or twigs in your tea, which is considered normal as well. Overall it is warm, refreshing and a welcome beverage in Afghanistan.
I have really enjoyed the Afghan food I have experienced and despite all the bad publicity about illness. I have never had any GI problems due to Afghan food. In fact it is possible I may be able to have an Americanized version of it when I get home, assuming I can find some extra hubcaps.