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Afghan Food: 25 Popular Dishes + 3 Secret Recipe Tips

Whether you’re a traveler or an international food enthusiast, Afghan food is brimming with delicious opportunities. The cuisine derives its flavors and techniques from multiple other cultures. Here you’ll find the most famous dishes fro Afghan, plus easy recipe tips.

These influences are drawn from the time of the Silk Road to now. With the range of ethnicities within the country, eating habits and dishes tend to differ across the nation. One thing that remains consistent with Afghan cuisine is the love of rice with every main meal.

Stick around to learn more about Afghan food, secret recipes, eating habits, and common dining etiquette.

Traditional Afghanistan Cuisine – More Than Kabuli Pulao and Chopan Kabob

Traditional Afghanistan Cuisine – More Than Kabuli Pulao and Chopan Kabob

When you think of Afghan food, you might picture a hot, spicy, red liquid stew served with biryani rice. These ideas are likely influenced by the country’s neighbor, India. While India does have its influence over Afghanistan’s cuisine, Afghan food combines many more cultures and cuisines.

It has its influences from Mongolian, Pakistani, Iranian, and Middle Eastern food. Unlike most neighboring countries, Afghanistan doesn’t prioritize high spice levels. Instead, the Afghan people prefer dishes with sweet elements like nuts and dried fruits.

Besides that, Afghanistan’s freezing landscapes have shaped the type of cuisine consumed. Subsequently, most meals are high in fat. Citizens are exceptionally generous with their oil and mutton fat servings, whether preparing koftas or kormas.

Food aside, Afghans enjoy drinking green and black tea or choi. Drinking choi is more than reveling in its warm flavors. It’s also largely attributed to hospitality.

Overall, Afghan cuisine isn’t only defined by surrounding regions. The country’s culture and landscapes have also played a role.

Most Popular Street Food in Afghanistan

Most Popular Street Food in Afghanistan

As you peruse the streets of Afghanistan, you’ll notice a few food stalls dotted around the region. They’ll likely be serving these famous street foods.

Jalebi

Jalebi

Jalebi isn’t an exclusive dish to the Afghans. The dessert is originally from an Indian background but is also found around the Middle East but holding different names.

As you approach a jalebi stall, you’ll notice a large pot of frying oil. A man will be holding a funnel over the oil and spirally spilling a batter to create the fried delicacy.

After coming out of the frying pot, the crispy dessert is drenched in a thick, sugary syrup, giving it a glossy finish.

The syrup has multiple flavor options, including saffron, rosewater, honey, cardamom, and orange blossom. In some areas, the stall may serve the jalebi with crushed pistachios or saffron threads.

Bolani

Bolani

Bolani is the perfect street food dish to keep you warm on a long walk during the harsh winter. The Afgan snack consists of a flatbread stuffed with various ingredient choices, including spiced mashed potatoes, spinach, pumpkin, spring onions, and lentils. Then, it’s pan-fried to create a crisp exterior.

You can eat bolani alone or ask for a refreshing mint yogurt dip to create an ideal pairing of warm and cold. While usually found in the streets, the Afghan meal is traditionally served in homes to accompany main meals.

Panipuri

Panipuri

Like many other street foods riddled in Afghanistan, panipuri is also an Indian creation. It’s a fried, hollow sphere bread stuffed with multiple filling options, like potatoes, chickpeas, and onions. Street vendors often serve the dish with a chaat masala or chili powder.

The thin, crisp outer layer cracks into the warm, flavorful interior as you bite into it. The dressing balances the hotness of the filling. We suggest eating a panipuri piece in one bite to avoid getting the bread soggy. Make sure it’s cool beforehand.

Afghan Food in the World

Afghan Food in the World

Afghan food isn’t limited within the country’s borders. With various Afghans migrating to different nations, the cuisine has grown in presence internationally.

You can locate several Afghan restaurants serving popular dishes like Kabuli Pulao, Manti, and bolani. In some cases, Afghan cuisine is meshed into Middle Eastern, Indian, or Pakistani menus.

How Healthy Afghan Food Is

How Healthy Afghan Food Is

Afghan food can be both healthy and unhealthy. Most of the cuisine is categorized under two groups, hot and cold. In hot dishes, you usually find flour-based meals like bolani or rice, which tend to pack a lot of calories.

Meanwhile, cold options typically contain fruits, vegetables, and other water-based foods. Those can include grapes, melons, pomegranates, eggplants, spinach, and potatoes. Subsequently, Afghans intake most of their vitamins and minerals from these meals.

Other than that, let’s talk about protein. Afghanistan is a landlocked country. Omega-rich seafood options are not as available. Meats are also challenging to come by since they’re particularly pricey in the region.

For this reason, Afghans lack their protein intake. The citizens rely more on carb-rich meals containing rice and wheat flour. When cooking, Afghans also use a lot of oil and fat, which can overload your cholesterol levels.

Famous and Popular Afghan Dishes You Have to Try

Famous and Popular Afghan Dishes You Have to Try

With influences all over neighboring countries, Afghan dishes offer an enticing fusion of fragrant options. Here are some popular Afghan meals you have to try.

Kabuli Pulao

Kabuli Pulao

Kabuli pulao rises as one of the most famed dishes in Afghan cuisine. Interestingly, this dish was originally made by upper-class Afghans. The meal consists of copious amounts of rice and meats, which remain pricey.

The dish’s name comes from the country’s capital, “Kabul.” Kabuli pulao is a versatile meal. You can add a variety of meat, nuts, dried fruit, and spice options to create it. The base of it is rice. The meal is then layered with cumin-seasoned meat, such as lamb.

Next, top the Kabuli pulao with a generous layer of shredded carrots, dried fruits, and nuts. Now, the dish usually holds a distinct sweet flavor. That comes from the sugar solution added to the rice.

It brings out an appetizing caramel shade to it. Once served, you can poke holes in it to release the steam.

Chopan Kabob

Chopan Kabob

Chopan kabob emerged from Pashtun cuisine. It consists of meat molded into skewers, grilled over a mankal, or Afghan charcoal barbecue. The dish’s name translates to “shepherd” in Pashtu dialect.

It specifically refers to sheepherders that used to season lamb meat into tree branch skewers over an open flame while monitoring their herd.

The kind of meat used to create chopan kabob is often derived from the sheep’s tail. The fatty meat is marinated with onion juice, yogurt, salt, garlic, and ginger.

Sajji Kabab

Sajji Kabab

Sajji kabab is a popular meal in Afghanistan but comes from the Pakistani province of Balochistan. The hearty dish involves roasting a whole lamb or chicken marinated in salt and spices. You can then serve the Sajji with a rice or naan side dish and adorn it with shredded carrots.

Sajji is typically cooked in a wood-fired setting. You’ll have to cook it gradually as well to get the best flavor. Afghans usually make this dish during special events and celebrations, like Eid or weddings.

Mantu

Mantu

Upon first glance at Mantu, you wouldn’t expect it to come from a Chinese background since it strongly resembles dumplings. Nevertheless, these delicacies are Afghan. They’re stuffed with delectable and spiced minced meat along with chopped onions.

Next, steam the meat dumplings until cooked. Before laying the Mantu on a plate, Afghans first layer a thick helping of yogurt and sliced mint leaves. You then lay the dumplings however you please then drizzle chakkah over the entire plate.

You can also pour a tomato-based sauce dressing for an extra kick. That sauce can consist of kidney beans, split beans, or ground meat. Alternatively, you can opt for Quroot, a sour cheese dip.

Mastawa

Mastawa

If you’re searching for a comfort meal to warm your soul during a cold winter night, look no further than the Afghan mastawa. This dish combines sticky rice and chickpeas with a special sun-dried and salted lamb meat called Lahndi.

The whole meal is seasoned and simmered with garlic, onions, mint, turmeric, and coriander. You can also add Quroot for added richness. Orange peel and sliced peppers are also added to bring out a more fragrant aroma and flavor.

Soups & Salads

Soups & Salads

Afghan soups are some of the most heartwarming meals in international cuisine. They often combine a mixture of meats, carbs, and flavorful broths. Meanwhile, the salads are filled with a variety of vegetables, giving you more color and crunch.

Kalah Pacha

Kalah Pacha

Kalah pacha translates to “head” and “trotter” and that’s exactly what’s added to this Afghan breakfast meal. The head is first skinned and cleaned off before being added to the soup. Locals cook this soup with an entire sheep or goat head with the brain included.

As the meat cooks, you’ll need to add a few squeezes of lemon and some cinnamon. Unlike the traditional way of eating soup, by spoon, Afghans usually eat kalah pacha with their hands. They use flatbread and dip it into the dish.

Maushawa

Maushawa

If you enjoy indulging in thick, creamy soups, you’ll want to try maushawa. This soup is exceptionally thick with flavor thanks to its multiple ingredients. It contains kidney beans, split beans, rice, tomatoes, onions, dill, chicken stock, and yogurt.

You can incorporate kofta or meatballs into the dish to add more protein. You can savor this soup as a main meal or side dish. Aside from that, locals like to dip it with lavash or naan.

Aush

Aush

Aush, sometimes referred to as ash, is a noodle soup also found in Iran. The comforting soup is commonly served with meat like beef or lamb kofta. Nevertheless, you can create a vegetarian version and add extra vegetables like chickpeas and beans.

In addition, Aush consists of a tomato-flavored broth mixed with multiple herbs like mint. You can serve the dish with a spoonful of yogurt on top or stir it into the soup.

Chour Nakhod

Chour Nakhod

Chour nakhod is a traditional chickpea Afghan salad. Creating it involves mixing boiled chickpeas, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, like cilantro and parsley.

You can dress the salad with a generous dose of vinegar as well. The result is a fresh and filling protein-based salad, perfect as a side dish or dinner meal.

Bonjan Salad

Bonjan Salad

Bonjan salad is a satisfying side dish composed of eggplants. The preparation entails slicing and frying the vegetable, pouring tomato sauce, red pepper, and a dash of cinnamon on top, and mixing it all. The salad makes for an exceptional and filling appetizer.

Interestingly, a plethora of cultures have several variations of a Bojan salad. You can find it in Italian cuisine termed “parmigiana di melanzane.” Although, this version combines parmesan cheese.

Other cultures, like the ones in the Middle East, have a similar version called “mesa’a’a,” which sometimes combines ground beef to create a main course meal. Either way, eggplant dishes have stretched far and wide across international cuisines to create a delectable appetizer and side dish.

Afghan Salata

Afghan Salata

Afghan salata strongly resembles salads from different cultures. It consists of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. It’s then topped with cilantro, mint, shredded carrots, and a squeeze of lime. These ingredients don’t differ too much from the Egyptian “salata baladi.”

It’s likely widely popular because it pairs exceptionally well with any meal and is highly versatile. You can eat it alone or with your rice dish. It offers an appetizing crunch when mixed with your meal and freshness to cut through the spice.

Starters, Sandwiches, Sides

Starters, Sandwiches, Sides

In terms of starters, sides, and sandwiches, Afghanistan has plenty to offer, from vegetable-based options to tasty burgers.

Badenjan-burani

Badenjan-burani

Rather than a side dish, badenjan-burani serves more as a dip. It’s like putting a hummus platter on the dinner table for all to take from. The side combines blended eggplants, garlic, olive oil, and yogurt.

If it sounds familiar, you’ve likely seen or tried its Middle Eastern variation, “baba ganoush.” Nonetheless, both slightly differ in taste. The Afghan variation uses yogurt and mint.

Meanwhile, “baba ganoush” adds tahini and lemon juice for an extra kick. That said, both eggplant dishes are usually served with some type of bread for dipping. In Afghanistan’s case, that’s usually lavash or naan.

Osh Pyozee

Osh Pyozee

You may have heard of stuffed zucchini or grapevine leaves, but what about stuffed onions? That’s exactly what osh pyozee is. The recipe calls for boiling yellow onions to make them tender.

Then, fill the layers with ground lamb, cooked rice, feta cheese, prunes, cumin, and sauteed garlic. Afterward, place it all in an oven until it turns golden brown.

Osh pyozee will give you a blast of flavors, from the sweetness of the onions and prunes to the savoriness of the rice, lamb, and feta cheese. It all creates an addicting taste that’ll have you reaching for more than one.

Kabuli Burgers

Kabuli Burgers

Also referred to as Afghan burgers, the Kabuli burger is a street food meal. Unlike traditional dishes dating centuries back, these burgers are a recent creation originating from Pakistan. The idea particularly came from Afghans coming from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

Now, when you first look at a Kabuli burger, you wouldn’t call it a burger in the traditional sense. Rather than having buns, this street food item is made with chapati flatbread or naan paraki, giving it more of a wrap appearance.

Once the rectangular bread is laid out, the street food vendor will add a bit of shredded chicken or beef sausage. Then, they’ll pile a mass of french fries, before putting cabbage, tomatoes, onions, spices, and onions. In some stalls, you can also add boiled eggs.

Mains

Mains

Aside from the famed national dish, Kabuli Pulao, Afghanistan has multiple other mains worth exploring, opening up your taste buds to new and intriguing flavors.

Challow

Challow

If you’re a fan of meatballs, you’ll love to indulge in this Afghan traditional dish. Challow consists of meatballs cooked in a tomato sauce and long-grain rice. You can add other ingredients to the dish, like eggs and vegetables.

The ground meat is either made of lamb or beef. You can spice it with coriander and black pepper or add other herbs to the mix. It’s an ideal comfort meal and includes simple ingredients found in most kitchens.

Sholeh Ghorbandi

Sholeh Ghorbandi

Hailing from the Ghorband district, sholeh ghorbandi is another Afghan rice dish. It’s a vegetarian-friendly meal that combines tomatoes, mung beans, dill, lime, and pepper. Afghans serve the bean portion with medium-grain rice.

To create sholeh ghorbandi, stir-fry onions and add the beans, tomatoes, and herbs. Next, add water and wait until the beans are slightly soft. Then, incorporate uncooked rice into the water-filled pot and allow it to simmer.

That way, the rice will absorb all the flavors of the vegetables. Refrain from stirring when adding the rice. Otherwise, it could turn out too mushy. You can serve the pot as is or pour it onto a serving plate and garnish with dill and lime wedges.

Reshteh Palaw

Reshteh Palaw

Reshteh palaw originally comes from the Persian region. Nevertheless, some Afghan households also serve it. The dish consists of cut-up, dried egg noodles, and rice. The noodles are first dry-roasted on a pan and cooked with steaming rice to create a texturally unique meal.

You can incorporate multiple spices with the steamed rice to give it that fragrant yellow appearance, like turmeric. The dish also combines sauteed onions. Afghans may eat reshteh palaw alone or alongside roasted chicken or cooked lamb.

Samaroq

Samaroq is made with cardamom

Samaroq is an ideal healthy meal choice for Afghans. Creating it entails pan-frying tomatoes, onions, spicy peppers, and garlic. While stir-frying at high heat, add your spices, including cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Once the tomatoes turn into a saucy consistency, add mixed mushrooms and allow them to cook until the liquid dissipates. You can then serve the samaroq with rice, lavash, or naan, depending on your preference. The result is equally nutritious and flavorsome.

Bread, Pastries, Dessert

Bread, Pastries, Dessert

Afghanistan has a lot to offer when it comes to bread, pastry, and dessert options. The population particularly thrives on naan and lavash. Meanwhile, its sweet flavors are distinct from other cuisines.

Lavash

Lavash

Lavash is one of the most common bread options next to naan in Afghanistan. The leavened bread is usually baked on a tawa or tandoor. It can be rolled into a rectangular, round, or square shape, depending on the dish you’ll serve alongside it.

The food pairings with lavash are endless. You can serve it with your main meat dish, stew, or soup. It can also be enjoyed alone with a cup of tea. The bread is widely available across Afghanistan.

You can even find it served at weddings to promote prosperity and fertility for the newlyweds.

Naan-e Roghani

Naan-e Roghani

If you’ve stopped at a bakery in Afghanistan, you’ll likely spot one of these beauties. Naan-e roghani is similar to the traditional naan but offers a fluffier consistency. It involves mixing flour with oil, salt, yeast, sugar, and lukewarm water.

Once kneaded into a soft consistency, you’ll then leave it to rise until it doubles in size. Next, divide the balls into separate portions and flatten them into circles.

Sprinkle some nigella and sesame seeds on top and brush it with milk. Lastly, bake in the oven until it turns a gorgeous golden brown.

Naan-e Afghani

Naan-e Afghani

Naan-e Afghani is similar to the roghani variation. The shape and toppings are the main difference. It’s molded into a large oval or rectangle shape and dusted with poppy and sesame seeds.

Before shoving it in the scalding tandoor oven, street vendors brush the dough with whisked eggs to create a toasted finish.

Almost every Afghan meal uses this traditional naan in its dish. It’s best eaten fresh out of the oven when it’s at its warmest and fluffiest.

Sheer Khurma

Sheer Khurma

After filling on all the meat and rice dishes, it’s time to indulge in a sweet Afghan-prepared rice pudding, also known as sheer khurma. Now, rice pudding isn’t a dish exclusive to Afghanistan. It carries multiple origins, particularly in nations where rice was abundant, like China and India.

What makes the Afghan version distinct is its vermicelli addition. The pudding is also topped with dried fruits and saffron threads for extra aroma.

You can gorge on sheer khurma, whether cold or hot. It’ll have a creamy and thick consistency. We highly recommend adding a few nuts, like cashews or almonds, to enhance the texture.

Malida

Malida is frequently served with warm tea

Malida is more popular with the Persian ethnic population in Afghanistan. It consists of ground bread made from yeast, flour, oil, water, and baking soda.

The breadcrumbs are then mixed with sugar, ghee, cardamom, and nuts. The result is a sweet and moist consistency that you’ll savor after each spoonful.

If you want a more convenient recipe, you can swap the homemade bread with pre-bought paratha or roti. Besides that, malida is often served during festivities like wedding celebrations. Most bowls are also given with a warm cup of tea.

Gosh e Fil

Gosh e Fil

Also referred to as elephant ear pastries, gosh e fil is a dessert favorite among Afghans. It involves deep-frying flat, elephant ear-shaped dough. Next, dust the golden brown pastry with a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar and sprinkle some nuts like crushed pistachios.

Alternatively, you can garnish the gosh e fil with ground green cardamom. Like other Afghan sweets, the elephant ear pastry is usually served with tea. It’s more commonly found during celebrations like Ramadan and Nowruz.

Haft Mewa

Haft Mewa

Haft mewa is a special dessert dish in Afghanistan. It’s occasionally served as breakfast during Nowruz, which is a New Year celebration observed by Iranian ethnic groups. The word “haft” translates to seven, while “mewa” signifies fruits or nuts.

Subsequently, haft mewa involves a bowl of seven fruits or nuts. Some of the most commonly used nuts and fruits during the occasion are pistachios, hazelnuts, apricots, berries, raisins, and walnuts.

Before placing them in a bowl, the ingredients are first soaked in rosewater to create a fragrant taste and aroma to the sweet and nutty dish.

Secret Recipe Tips

Secret Recipe Tips

Afghan food has been passed down for several generations. Consequently, each household was able to perfect their meals and flavors with multiple tweaks. Here are some tips to get the most out of your Afghan cuisine experience.

Perfect Your Spice Blend

Perfect Your Spice Blend

Your spice blend will be the star of the show in most Afghan meals. Whether you’re creating a blend for a meat marinade or rice, you’ll want to meet the authentic standard. Ingredients like asafoetida make all the difference.

Most spice blends usually contain coriander, cumin seeds, cardamom, and saffron. These flavor enhancers are essential in most recipes.

You can also incorporate other spices like garam masala for added depth. Nonetheless, chili powder isn’t as much of a necessity in Afghan cuisine as it is in Desi cooking.

Use Afghan Cookware

Use Afghan Cookware

One of the most popular Afghan cookware is the kazan. Kazans resemble a large cauldron. They serve a similar purpose to pressure cookers. Subsequently, they’re outstanding at retaining heat and slow-cooking your meat dishes.

Place the kazan in an open flame when using it. The Afghan cookware will trap all the flavors, giving you aromatic results. In terms of its structure, it has two steam release valves along with another emergency valve for additional safety.

While using it brings a more authentic taste to your Afghan dishes, maintaining a kazan can be challenging. It’s similar to a cast iron skillet’s care requirements where you have to season and manually clean it.

Serve the Food Warm

Serve the Food Warm

Imagine sitting in an Afghan “dastarkhan” floor arrangement, and as the food is set on the tablecloth, you see the smoke wafting around, encapsulating your senses.

Serving the food hot from the oven or stove enriches its aroma and taste. Nonetheless, some studies suggest that piping hot foods can hinder some of the food’s flavor.

It primarily depends on the guest and whether they have a sensitive palette that tends to burn quickly from scalding meals.

Beverages

Beverages

The beverages in Afghanistan widely range from sweet, warm teas to tangy and sour refreshments.

Sharbat-e Bomya

Sharbat-e Bomya

Sharbat-e Bomya is a chilled rosewater beverage in Afghanistan. It mixes rosewater, lemon juice, and sugar. You’ll first need to boil the lemon juice with sugar to dissolve it, then pour the rosewater. You can serve this to your guests with ice.

Sheer Chai

Sheer Chai

Sheer Chai is a staple drink in every Afghan household. It’s a sweet and spicy milk tea, often served hot. After one sip, you’ll taste the strong notes of herbal cardamom, followed by the rich milk flavor.

Afghans typically use black tea to make sheer chai. Overall, it’s a comforting and sugary drink that’ll keep you up since it’s sometimes referred to as “Afghan Red Bull.”

Doogh

Doogh

Doogh is an originally Persian yogurt drink. Its main ingredients are yogurt, mint, and water. Once all your portions are mixed, chill the doogh with ice cubes and serve it to your guests in a glass pitcher.

It’s the perfect drink for a dry summery day and after a hefty meal that you need to digest.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Afghan recipes usually call for staple ingredients like meat, long-grain rice, yogurt, dried fruits, and nuts. You’ll likely find these additions in almost every traditional recipe.

Yogurt

Yogurt

Yogurt is an essential ingredient in Afghan cuisine. The dairy product in Afghanistan is referred to as mast or maust. Once drained, it becomes chakah, and after dried and shaped into balls it’s called quroot.

Most recipes add the creamy substance, whether infused in a sauce or dolloped on top of a soup.

Rice

Rice

Rice dominates most Afghan main dishes, particularly its national dish, Kabuli pulao. It can come in long or medium-grain form. In most cases, rice is steamed to create chalau.

The dish is infused with aromatic flavors like saffron and is usually served alongside a curry or some sort of garnish.

Dried Fruits and Nuts

Dried Fruits and Nuts

Afghans enjoy gorging on a variety of dried fruits and nuts. One of the most used dried fruits is dried plums. They offer a sweet and sour taste to your dish.

Raisins and mulberries are also widely used. In terms of nuts, the cuisine often includes pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts, in all sorts of meals, both sweet and savory.

Lamb

Lamb

Afghan cuisine extensively includes lamb in its large dishes. It’s a popular choice among Afghans because of its high-fat content, making it a preferred meat choice for dry or cold days. Lamb is also a cultural choice since it’s often used as a sacrifice in Eid celebrations and given to the poor.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and Spices

Thanks to Afghanistan’s arid landscape, it has the ideal environment to grow multiple artisanal spices found in most desi and Afghan pantries.

  • Dried Mint: Afghans use this herb often to mix it with yogurt-based curries and chutney to cut through the spice. It’s also sprinkled as a garnish on dishes like mantu.
  • Coriander: Fresh coriander is a must-add in Afghan cuisine. You can add it to almost any dish, including stews, soups, and sauces.
  • Cardamom: The pungent and woodsy herb is a popular add-on in both savory and sweet meals.
  • Cumin: Cumin seeds offer umami flavor explosions in curries and rice dishes. It also adds extra warmth to every bite.

Afghan Food Culture

Afghan Food Culture

Afghanistan’s food culture predominantly rests on their Islamic faith. Their eating habits and etiquette align with the religion’s rules. Aside from that, their food is usually homecooked. Women are primarily responsible for these meal preparations.

By 12 years old, Afghan girls start accompanying their mothers in the kitchen to learn how to cook. Once they’ve surpassed 15 years of age, they’re fully knowledgeable of their mothers’ recipes. For this reason, these meals are passed from generation to generation.

Eating Habits

Eating Habits

Regarding Afghan eating habits, carb-rich meals consume most of their palette. Their main meals usually contain some form of long-grain rice or traditional bread.

The rice is served with toppings like dried fruit and nuts. Afghans also enjoy adding side dishes to infuse different flavors. That can involve a warm soup or refreshing salad.

Food aside, Afghans heavily prioritize their tea time. It can come anytime during a snack, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The drink is strongly linked to hospitality. Consequently, if you ever find yourself visiting an Afghan home, chances are the host will offer you tea.

The tea comes alongside an array of treats, like shirnee, a toffee-like candy, or noql, which are sugar-coated pistachios, almonds, or chickpeas. You might also get some homemade or bakery-made biscuits, often referred to as kulcha.

Besides that, food preparations and cooking styles vary across each household. Afghan food is usually stir-fried, deep-fried, or steamed, giving you lots to choose from.

You can also find unique cooking utensils, like the Kazan, a pressure cooker used to create stews, soups, and meat dishes.

Meal Structure

Meal Structure

Afghan meal structures don’t differ much from beyond its borders. People eat three main meals daily along with one or two snacks between meals. Here’s a brief outlook of how each meal usually looks:

Breakfast

Breakfast

Afghanistan offers a wide variety of appetizing breakfast options you can easily recreate. One of those includes the tokhme banjanrom. The recipe is reminiscent of Tunisian Shakshuka.

It involves frying onions and garlic, then adding tomatoes and peppers before cracking a few eggs over it. After leaving it to cook, you’re left with the best start to your day.

Lunch

Lunch

For Afghans, lunch is the main meal of the day. It’s also the largest and consists of rice and meat. Depending on each household’s specialty, they might serve a Kabuli pulao, bolani, mantu, or aushak.

These hefty meals are often served with a range of side dishes. These sides are usually vegetable-based. For instance, you can indulge in a golpi dish made from cauliflower or a yogurt-topped green salad to balance the heat from the main meal.

Dinner

Dinner

In some cases, dinner can also be the main meal for Afghans. Those instances particularly happen during celebrations or special occasions, like Ramadan. During that time, Afghans observe a fasting period during the morning and break their fast at sunset.

Like lunch, dinner is also accompanied by a variety of side dish choices. If you’re invited for an Afghan dinner, your host will likely pile your plate with a jumble of options, like rice, salad, lamb, dumplings, and more. By the end of the evening, you’ll be more than satisfied.

Snacks

Snacks

Afghans don’t deviate much from other nations. They like to munch on nuts, dried fruits, and biscuits. Alternatively, some may opt for a more carb-filled snack, like naan or other bread options.

If you’re out and about, you can always visit one of the many stalls surrounding the street and take your pick from a sweet jalebi treat or flavorful panipuri.

Etiquette

Etiquette

As a Muslim nation, Afghanistan draws a lot of its dining etiquette from Islamic teachings. For instance, when eating, Afghans use their right hand. They don’t rely on traditional utensils like forks and spoons to eat.

Unlike the Western dining table arrangement, Afghans sit on a cushioned pillow on the ground to eat. You must take your shoes off and sit cross-legged.

In the country’s food culture, there’s a term called “dastarkhan.” It entails a tablecloth set on the floor with a variety of food plates on top.

Guests are heavily prioritized during eating arrangements and are seated the furthest from the door. As a guest, here are some points to consider:

  1. Don’t eat too much of the food unless the host encourages you to put more on your plate.
  2. Refrain from refusing to eat what the host offers. Otherwise, it’ll be considered bad manners on your end.
  3. Eat your soup by soaking it with bread.
  4. You’ll be offered food first and given the largest portion.
  5. Allow the host or eldest to recite prayers before eating the food.
  6. Even if you didn’t ask for it, you’ll be served tea. Most guests drink around two to three cups before flipping the cup over to signal that they’re satisfied.
  7. Don’t sit with your back to someone, especially elders.
  8. Avoid sitting with your feet stretched towards someone.
  9. You’ll be given a jug of water to wash your hands before and after your meal.
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