My Bibi (grandmother) is known far and wide as being one of the most accomplished cooks, a simple dish of Gulpi (cauliflower) can make all of your problems disappear. She has always had that kind of hand that make anything taste good, her skills have passed to my mother who spoiled me with a habit of coming home every night to dishes carefully prepared with rich and enticing flavors. My Bibi traveled throughout Afghanistan with my grandfather, and with that she learned cuisines from the various regions, and different cooking methods. The one thing that I have always appreciated about my Bibi’s style of cooking is her creativity, the fact that she tried probably every Afghan dish possible, and was always willing to try something new, make something her own.
I myself am fascinated by food, from every culture I am just amazed by food, by how people have figured out how to take local ingredients and create something that is so desirable. I spend a lot of my time browsing recipes simply out of curiosity; it gives a lot of insight into a culture, a people’s mentality, their thriftiness and approach to the world.
As I have begun learning how to cook I am gaining a deeper appreciation for Afghan cuisine, the unique combination of flavors, and interesting approach to cooking. I wonder which artist plated Afghan food which is vibrant in colors; no dish is complete without some colorful garnish, a sprinkle of pomegranate or a cluster of parsley. Which woman perfected rice to the level of perfection of Afghan rice? Not mushy or hard, it’s perfectly and carefully prepared, each grain treated with respect. The plating of Afghan food itself is an art itself; usually there are steps, a sauce for the bottom, the dish, two sauces on top, and a garnish. For example mantou (meat filled dumplings) is incomplete without a sprinkling of mint on top. You cannot serve tea without cardamom, and rice absolutely cannot be cooked without a hint of cumin. Desserts must be topped with chopped pistachios, kabobs cannot be plated without a sprinkling of Ghora (sumac), and soup is always served with cold yogurt. These are rules, and what I love about Afghan cuisine is that they are followed religiously so wherever you visit an Afghan home whether it’s in Fremont, California (home to most Afghans in America) or in some mountain in Afghanistan, you will be served with the same level of attention to detail in each ingredient and garnish.
I love cooking Afghan food, as well as using complimentary flavors and ingredients of cuisines in the surrounding Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, being my Bibi’s granddaughter I like to cook Afghan…but with a little extra something that reflects my experiences and upbringing in a rather diverse and cosmopolitan society.
I hope you enjoy my blog, and even if you are only feasting with your eyes: “Nooshe-Jan-Et”