Thursday, September 7, 2017


AFGHANISTAN; for a country that has been in the limelight in recent years for majorly the wrong reasons, it is a sad fact that its cuisine also has not garnered as much prominence as that of many of its neighboring countries.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I embarked on an A-Z Global Cuisine Project and chose AFGHANISTAN for A. During my research, I happily discovered that Afghani cuisine is a powerhouse of flavours and best described as hearty comfort food. The cuisine of this landlocked country has been deeply influenced from that of its neighbours namely Pakistan, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

  • Afghani cuisine can neither be described as hot nor spicy and rather flavourful.
  • Chief crops of the country are rice, pomegranate, nuts, dry fruits which obviously makes way into their cuisine.
  • Typical dishes in an Afghani menu would consist of:
    • Rice dishes such as the Palow
    • Freshly baked Breads such as Naan
    • Kebabs generally made from Lamb
    • Stews such as Qorma
    • Dumplings stuffed with meat- Mantu or with chives drizzled with yoghurt and meat sauce- Ashak
    • Desserts made from milk, nuts and rosewater
    • Black and Green Tea spiced with cardamom or served with milk/cream
  • An Afghan traditional banquet is generally served on the floor with the dishes spread over a Dasterkhawan (Tablecloth).
  • Afghani hospitality is regarded to be one of the best in the world. Guests are considered like kings and hosts prepare elaborate meals using special ingredients even perhaps by using up their savings or inspite of the fact that they have not had meat themselves for months together.
To kick off my project (which I have talked about here), I prepared the “KABELI or QABILI PULAO” which is the National dish of Afghanistan. 

I read different versions on the origins of the name of this dish, first being that KABELI originating from KABUL, the
capital and the other QABILI meaning “skilled” referring to that only a truly skilled cook can master this dish.

I found it easier to prepare this dish than the Indian Biriyani. Even though the method appears long, it is infact quite simple if followed step-wise like I have enlisted below:



Basmati rice - 1.5 cups
Green cardamoms - 5 nos
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Black peppercorns - 1/2-1 tsp (or to taste)
1-inch Cinnamon stick - 2 nos
Saffron - 6-8 strands

Vegetable oil - 1 Tbsp
Onions chopped - 1.5 cups (approx. 4 medium)
Chicken Thighs (bone in without skin) - 500-650 gms
Chicken broth - 1 cup (Refer note)

Carrot matchsticks - 1 cup (approx. 2 carrots)
Almonds slivered - 1/4 cup
Black raisins - 1/2 cup
Sugar- 1 Tbsp

Salt - to taste


Initial Prep
  • Wash the Basmati rice and soak for 30 minutes.
  • Roast the cardamom, cumin, peppercorns and cinnamon in a separate pan for 3-4 minutes until a lovely aroma comes. Grind this to a fine powder.
  • Soak the saffron strands in ¼ cup of lukewarm water.


  • Pour the oil in a pan, add onions and salt. Allow the onions to cook until deep brown.
  • Next, add the chicken thighs and sear the chicken until it develops dark brown colour.
  • Add the broth, half of the spice powder and half of the saffron to the chicken-onion mixture. Let this simmer until the chicken is cooked i.e. approx. 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken onto a plate and continue simmering the broth for another 5 minutes.


  • In a separate pan, bring about 4 cups of salted water to boil and add the rice.
  • Cook the rice until it is about 3/4th done.
  • Strain the rice and spread it onto a plate to allow the heat to escape and prevent overcooking.


Strew over the remaining saffron on the rice and pour the broth over the rice and mix it up. Layer the chicken on top of the rice.


  • Toast the almonds in a pan separately and keep aside. 
  • Boil the carrots in water but such that it retains its crunchiness and do not become mushy.
  • Add sugar, raisins and cook until the raisins become plump. 
  • Next add the carrots and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. 
  • Spread out the almonds, raisins and carrots onto a sheet of aluminium foil and make it into a pouch.

Baking and Serving:

  • Put this pouch on the rice and bake it in the oven at 180 C or on the stove top using the “Biriyani Dum” technique (i.e. by placing the dish with the chicken and rice atop a flat pan which can be heated at a low flame) for 15-20 minutes until steam appears.
  • Now open the foil pouch and spread the contents on top of the chicken and rice. Serve hot ensuring every portion contains the rice, chicken and the garnish.
  • Serve with a simple raita or yoghurt.
  • For the chicken broth, I used 1 cube of Maggi Chicken stock cubes dissolved in 1 cup of hot water.
  • Salt to be added carefully since the broth already contains salt.


  1. Being a fashion blogger ... i have been raving about afghani jewellery so far !!!
    But Kabeli Pulav sounds so yum that one more 'love' factor automatically got added to my Afghani List .

    1. I am too a big lover of fashion jewellery, must check out some Afghani patterns very soon !! Thank you so much for stopping by ! :)

  2. This is my fav... I used to have it every weekend from an Afgani restaurant in Sharjah. ... I hv been searching for it in Doha n never found it...(except in my kitchen) Lol...
    A great dish for a great start on your new project...
    Looking forward to more authentic dishes
    Best of Luck dear

    1. Once I discovered this dish, I too was on the lookout on the menus of the local Afghani restaurants and as you rightly mentioned was not too successful ! Thank you for your sweet comments and for stopping by Mila and hope to meet you very soon at some event !

  3. Mmmm, that sounds delicious. There's a definite lack of flavour in the food around here (France) and since leaving the UK we're really craving tasty food. I may just try making this - after I've checked out the Biriyani Dum method. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a great idea! My hubby loves to cook, so I should throw him down the challenge to do the alphabet. As for me, well I am still too terrified of the kitchen - my cooking skills are deplorable! Maybe one day I'll get a bit more confidence.

    Good luck with B!

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Thank u so much for dropping by..Would love to hear what is simmering and whistling at your end !