I like Afghan dogs, and I like Afghan food. Since I posted about the dogs a few days ago, I will post about the food today. Yum.
Today’s blog includes a recipe for Qabili Palau… which can apparently be spelled about a hundred thousand different ways. One thing it is not: Kabuli Palau, as in Palau from Kabul. It’s sometimes spelled that way, but the letter Afghans use for the K sound (as in Kabul) and the Q sound (as in Qabili) are very different. We don’t actually have an equivalent letter in English. It’s kind of like a Q/G mix. The same way Mohammar Gaddafi is also Qaddafi. It’s the same as the Arabic letter in his name. Don’t you feel all
confused smarty-smart now?
Here is a preview of dinner tonight.
Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Do you want to know why? Because I made it with beef instead of lamb
at the special request of a friend who later ditched me for dinner because there were better things to do. Lamb makes this dish better. That’s probably because that’s how the Afghans make it. They don’t eat a lot of beef in Afghanistan. Fat-tailed sheep? Yes. Goats? Absolutely. But beef? Not too many cattle ranches in the ‘Stan.
The other problem is that I only used two cups of rice, instead of two and half (because my roommate (who also spent time in Afghanistan) doesn’t happen to love this dish and I was trying to ensure she wouldn’t have gobs of leftovers when I leave town again tomorrow…
special thanks once again to the friend that ditched dinner thereby leaving a surplus of food… you know who you are). Unfortunately, I still used the full amount of water. That was a mistake. The rice wound up a bit on the soggy/sticky side. I guess I could have tried to cook it out longer, but I didn’t. Sue me. Actually, please don’t. I’m contemplating a serious career move, and I’m going to need every penny.
A couple of things before I post the recipe… A friend
not the aforementioned “friend” suggested using apples in this dish. I think they would complement the other flavors quite nicely. You could use them in addition to the raisins, or you could substitute the raisins altogether… something that would make my roommate happy(er), but probably still wouldn’t make her love the dish. But that’s cool. Really. It is. I’m not insulted that she doesn’t love this recipe as much as I (and millions of Afghans spanning generations) do. I wonder how millions of Afghans spanning generations would feel about the addition of apples. They’d probably like it. They grow good apples. Then again, they are rather resistant to change. So they might not like it after all. But I would.
Is it just me, or is it really difficult to find slivered almonds? I found sliced almonds everywhere. But slivered? Nope. Had to do it myself. That was tricky. They don’t look quite as nice as the peeled and slivered store-bought almonds.
I’ve only made this dish three times (you’ll see why when you scroll down and realize just how long it takes…spoiler alert! it takes three hours… minimum. you will also have a new respect for Afghan women who cook this dish for special occasions feeding hundreds of guests).
The first time was a disaster. I cooked an entire Afghan feast for my family… nine different dishes. I wanted them to experience all the different foods I love. I cooked for six or eight hours, and then cleaned up for two. It was painful. My feet were killing me. And by the time the Palau was ready, everyone was already full from the other courses. Good thing, too… because I would have had my honorary Afghan citizenship revoked for messing up the national dish.
The second time, I got it spot on. It was so delicious. The rice was perfect. The lamb was perfect. The sides were perfect.
This time… well, I already told you what the problems were this time. So… without further ado… I give you the Afghan National Dish: Qabili Palau.
Okay, maybe a little more ado. I know it says that cloves are optional… I don’t actually think they are. But some people don’t like cloves. Cardamom is also sometimes listed as an optional spice. I guess when you look at it like that, anything is optional. You could lose the meat and then it could qualify as a vegetarian dish (vegan even, I think). But why would you leave out meat?! Seriously, why?
Also, I have no idea where the recipe originates. I have been scouring the internets for two days trying to find it again so I can properly credit the originating author. I always make some alterations, but I think (most of) it comes from a blog a woman wrote detailing dishes her mother makes. If you come across her blog, let me know, would you? And give her a big thanks for me, for writing a recipe that was authentic in flavor without requiring the use of a pressure cooker (which I consider the galaxy’s scariest kitchen apparatus… hundreds die each year in Afghanistan from freak pressure cooker accidents). There are lots of recipes out there, but this one is the closest I’ve found to replicate the flavors of the streets of Kabul and the villages of (insert Afghan province name here… any one will do; I’ve tasted the dish in several).