Afghanistan and its people have been in the news for the wrong reasons in the recent past. The pain, the uncertainty and the fear the Afghani citizens experienced were all over the television and social media. So here is your chance to support the Afghan people. The good part is that to show this support you do not need a journey across the Hindukush Mountain range. A metro train ride to Lajpat Nagar II would suffice.
Having been on this Afghani food journey, we can assure you that it is going to be a rewarding one and none too expensive to boot. Lajpat Nagar has a cultural and culinary secret in the form of an Afghani market. Here the chief attraction for the food lovers is the various restaurants and stalls selling authentic Afghani food served in an equally authentic style.
Pure untampered preparations such as Kabuli Pulav, Chopaan Kebabs, Borani Banjan and Sheer Yakh are all available here. Yes, you read it right. These dishes are prepared and presented authentically and they have in no way been fiddled with to fit the ubiquitous Delhi taste palate. The reason is that a good portion of the clientele of these restaurants comes from the small Afghan population that has settled in the area over the years, starting with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The names of some of the Afghani restaurants here leave no scope for doubt about what is on offer here: Afghan Darbar, Kabul Delhi, Mazar and Choopan Kebab are some popular places selling Afghani food. In addition, there are a few street-side stalls that sell other Afghani food such as Afghani Burger, a variety of Afghani bread and sweets.
It has to be said that the preparation of all dishes is easy on spices. We know that not many species grow on harsh Afghan land. We preferred it this way for a change as at times the overwhelming presence of spices in north Indian cuisine tends to overpower the innate taste and texture of the main ingredients.
You have to try the Qorma here. A mainstay of the Mughaliya cuisine of Delhi, any dillwala food lover will go for it first. Interestingly and unexpectedly, the Mutton Qorma served here proved quite different from its Dilli cousin. Here it is prepared in a tomato gravy. It comes with a substantial-looking Afghani bread. They use only boneless pieces of meat in this preparation. The meat is cooked to perfection and the gravy has a subtle yet rich taste. The gravy is a bit sweetened from the use of tomato. The bread that soaks the curry well proved a perfect accompanist.
Another must-try preparation is the Kabuli Pulav. It has to be mentioned that all the dishes you would order here will come with some side dishes. Like the Pulav comes with bread and a gravy dish of kidney beans. The pulav is a pure delight to dig into. Again, low on spices and carrying a delectable taste, the use of raisins and caramelised carrot changed the dish from the biryani we know too well. Here too, only boneless pieces of meat are used.
All restaurants serve kebabs here which are often served steaming hot right on the table on skewers. It has to be said that the Kebabs are the highlight of all the menus here. And if you order them, you cannot go wrong. All the kebabs come accompanied by Afghani Rotis. Another authentic preparation you must try here in Mantu, which is similar to the well-known momos.
A perfect way to finish your meal here is to go for Sheer Yakh, which translates as cold milk in Dari, a Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan. It is an Afghani version of North Indian dessert Kulfi, topped with pistachios and almonds.
The street-side stall served an Afghani version of the burger. It is more of a wrap filled with fried chicken chunks, potatoes and boiled eggs. A truly wholesome affair.
Due to recent political turmoil back home, as the to and fro movement of Afghan nationals across the border has been restricted, the Afghan restaurant owners in Lajpat Nagar are complaining of a thinning clientele in the recent past. That is why they are now looking towards Indian food lovers to fill their tables. All of that makes for many compelling reasons to try Afghani food, right here in our very own Delhi.