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Welcome Cooking - Afghanistan


Afghanistan is a diverse and multi-ethnic nation and has been the cornerstone of civilization in Central Asia for thousands of years. It is said; the Far East, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian sub continent all converge there and it was a primary route for the Silk Road, which brought many traders and settlers as well. For centuries, Afghanistan was subjected to invading armies from its neighbors and from afar, including Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, all of who left they mark in one way or another. The influences they brought are why it's culture, people and cuisine are so diverse. Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the North; China in the Northeast, India on the East, Pakistan in the South and Iran in the West.

In Afghan cuisine, one may find many similarities with the foods from Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Indian, Central Asia, Persia and East Asia and many of the same ingredients and spices are utilized to give Afghan food is unique and inspiring tastes. Rich flavors come from garlic, curry, cayenne pepper, coriander, mint, cardamom and plain yoghurt, which is homemade. Despite very harsh winter in the central highlands and hot summer in the low-lying areas of the country, Afghanistan is able to grow great variety of vegetables, crops and other produce. On top of rice, bread and pasta, fruits and vegetables, both fresh and dried, are an important part of the Afghan diet. They are cooked and served as relishes, appetizers and main courses. Afghanistan's grapes are of exceptionally high quality. Fresh or dried grapes are commonly added to many Afghanistan dishes. Pulao, a national rice dish in which dried grapes are used, is a good example. Depending on the region, other fruits, including pomegranates, apricots, berries, plums and melons, are plentiful. Based on the availability of ingredients, Afghan food differs from region to region. Nevertheless fresh yoghurt, coriander, garlic, onion, potatoes and tomatoes are commonly found everywhere in Afghan dishes. For Breads, Afghans use a type of whole wheat. Some experts chefs believe bread flour bought in the west is the closest substitute because regular whole-wheat flour may be ground too coarsely.

Nuts and seeds are another example of important and healthy food sources for Afghans. Dried nuts and seeds, including walnuts, pistachios, almonds and pine nuts are plentiful across the country and can be found in many traditional Afghan dishes.

Being strategically located along the Silk Road, Afghanistan was an ancient focal point. Various peoples came and played a role in defining Afghanistan's colorful food culture. Afghan cuisine makes good use of herbs and spices such as cardamom and black peppers, which were introduced by Indian traders, while the Europeans and Chinese brought in mint, coriander and other spices. Another perfect example of foreign influence on the Afghanistan cuisine is mantu, delicious steamed dumplings topped with yoghurt-based sauce, which are certainly derived from Chinese dumplings referred to by the same name.

In a nutshell, Afghanistan cuisine is all about balanced taste. The cuisine is not too savory or bland, but often a bit pungent or sweet. Each region of Afghanistan has its own flavor, style and local favorites, reflecting its ethnic and geographic diversity.

Afghans are very proud of their culture and of their cooking and the food has a very delicate and savory taste, which people in the West may not be accustomed to. Afghan cooking takes time, practice and patience and should not be rushed. Because there are few supermarkets in the country, food is usually prepared by using the freshest ingredients. Using fresh meat and vegetable will enhance the flavor of the foods you cook. Most of the ingredients are available in Western countries, especially if you have a Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store nearby. Some of the more unique spices are also available online and Afghans use a mortar and pestle to prepare them. You may experiment and adjust the amount of spices to suit your taste, but be careful not to alter the amounts too much or your food will become bland. You may also find that a pressure cooker will help to speed up your cooking time should you desire to use dried beans, which is the traditional method, but canned beans are an acceptable substitute. When cooking desserts, Rose water is traditionally used instead of vanilla, but vanilla can also be sued in its place. Afghans make their own butter, which is unsalted and this type of butter works best for these recipes. Don't forget that Tea is the most common beverage served with an Afghan meal and is also widely used during social gatherings. Afghanistan food is certainly not common in the West but I'm sure you will find some of these dishes delicious. My intention is to share the enjoyment of our scrumptious Afghanistan cuisine. A lot of time and effort has gone into translating and compiling this Internet cooking resource so that we could share our culture and favorite dishes with you. The recipes here are a true representation of the lifestyle and richness of our culture. May peace be with you all.