Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kabul on my mind

Today I am writing about a past dinning experience because today I was remembering dear friends of mine who are originally from Afghanistan. One of my friends from work was excited when I finally moved to the DC area. A few weeks after moving, I got a phone call telling me that he was picking me up and we were going to dinner at Bamian (which was the first place that I experienced Afghan food a few years prior with this same friend). He also informed me that he had a surprise for me.

Needless to say I was excited for a many reasons:  I hadn't seen my friend in a few years, I loved Bamian's food, and who doesn't love good surprises. Well, it turns out the surprise was the best part of the night. The surprise was his favorite cousin. He always raved about her and her crazy antics. She was in from Kabul for about 24hrs before leaving for a work meeting. We had such an amazing time that after dinner the three of us stayed together until we put her on a plane the next day. To this day she is one of my best friends.

At Bamain I learned about Boolawnee (clay oven-baked pastry stuffed with scallions, chopped leeks and potatoes, and served with a side of homemade yogurt). I asked if it was similar to an empanada but neither of them had had one of those. So when the Boolawnee arrived I enjoyed being able to talk about when my grandmother would make me empanadas as a child. Both are very similar and very tasty.

We ordered all sorts of food and shared it family style. One of my favorites was the chicken kabobs. The chicken was grilled and seasoned to perfection. Everything was served with a side of Nan-e Afghan (Afghan Bread) and rice. We talked about how if we weren't in a nice restaurant we would be eating with our hands a bit more. I found that interesting because that is how I wanted to eat the food. Using the nan like I would a tortilla or fry bread, constructing something like an Afghan taco using the rice, roasted vegies, yogurt sauce and grilled meat.

When I was recently deployed and spent time in Kabul, I made sure to enjoy local food fare. Remembering the stories my friends told of how they missed the food of their childhood...this was their "Comfort Food". It made me smile with happiness to break nan and share chai with the locals and eat all the wonderful food with our hands. I was complimented on my technique and was then able to explain how in my culture we eat certain foods very similarly. Later on in my deployment I was even able to learn how to make nan and I shared how to make tortillas (one of my comfort foods). 

It was a blessing to be able to bring my food exerperience full circle while in Kabul. I just wish that my friends were there to share the experience with me. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to see either of them in over a year. We couldn't even coordinate to see each other when all three of us were deployed to Kabul at the same time. But we will meet again soon. We will break bread (or maybe nan) and share wine (or maybe chai).

Bamian on Urbanspoon

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