A few months ago after getting a book out of the library about Afghanistan food and recipes, we had a go at making Afghani bread and a beef kebab. Not having a charcoal grill handy in the kitchen and it being winter, I made the beef into meatballs. The bread worked out well, but after checking some images on the internet, it appears I didn’t do enough dents down my flatbread. What we needed was a baseline to compare our Afgan food to. What is it supposed to be like?
Just up the road from us is a little Afghan restaurant, and we have been meaning to give it ago. Our friend Liz, who has lived for a long time in Pakistan and travelled in Afghanistan, was keen to come and we welcomed her guidance. We decided to try it this week. Karl went in to see if he could book a table, and the guy at the counter said yes and said he would reserve a table for us.
There was a pause and then Karl said “Do you want to take my name?”
“No, no” he replied. “I’ll remember you” and heartily shook his hand.
We turned up at the restaurant the next evening and took our seats. Liz hadn’t quite arrived and from the kitchen came the question;
“Shall I cook for your friend?”
“Yes please.” We replied.
No ordering—we were in the hands of our chef!
So we waited to see what would come to our table. Liz arrived, the kids watched the goings on in the kitchen and then he bought our food over. He had made big plates of seasoned rice and on top were chicken and beef kebabs. We had lettuce with half a lemon as a side dish. He had made smaller helpings for the kids with the side for them as well. So no difficult menu to negotiate. The taste? It was really good. The chicken was charred on the edges but still juicy in the middle. The meat was beautifully spiced but not overly chilli. The beef was tender, delicious and aromatic without being too hot (the kids did find the beef a bit too hot for their tastebuds but not until they had eaten most of it)!
We had heard the bread here was fabulous but unfortunately that night they hadn’t made bread, so another trip will have to be planned if we want to try that. Next time they said just to let them know we wanted bread and they would fire up the big tandoor oven. Liz taught us Tashakkur – which is thank you in Afghani. We finished with a cup of green tea and some raisins. Afghanistan used to be known for its high quality raisins and sultanas, a real delicacy. Before the Soviet invasion in 1979 they were one of the biggest exporters of raisins.
It was far from a high class restaurant meal. It was a bit odd, the ambience was a little lacking, but the food was absolutely top-notch, and isn’t that what you go out to a restaurant for anyway? We were sure we were eating the best Afgan cuisine in Christchurch. And I think it’s worth having a bit of an adventure into some of these lesser known places. You have to be a bit brave, but the rewards are worth it when you stumble onto a local gem! We’ll be back!
207 Waimairi Road, Ilam, Christchurch
open 11am-7pm Tues – Sat
ph 03 357 0067