Delhi is meant to be a paradise for shopping enthusiasts. It was during the time when we were in Delhi NCR, we had to get some serious shopping done for a wedding. It was a boutique in Lajpat nagar where we had ordered for my daughter’s dress. Lajpat nagar was an exquisite market for anything and everything. The owner of the boutique guided us well regarding the market and we decided to explore this market with great enthusiasm. Once you are done with shopping here in this market, you can head over to enjoy the famous food items in an array of food joints here. There are several eateries and one that caught our attention was the Afghani restaurant. It was my first experience of Afghani cuisine that made a mark in my mind of the naans, kebabs and korma which were subtly spiced, succulent but distinctly plain.
We had ordered some amazing Afghani Qabili or Kabuli pulao with mutton that had a topping of carrots and raisins, korma and some kebabs. Smitten by the delectable Afghani food, staying in Gurgaon it was not a simple fare to visit Delhi to go back just for Afghani food. But to my surprise, we saw an Afghani restaurant right in front of the famous Medanta hospital near to my residence. Later after visiting this restaurant, I realized that this restaurant was a bustling niche for members of the Afghan community who visit India in search of relatively inexpensive effective medical treatment. On entering this restaurant, one moment you feel as if you are in a different land giving the glimpse of the real natives of Afghan, who are legendary for their hospitality and are big hearted people.
It was undoubtedly a very good place for authentic Afghani food. One can watch Afghani music playing on the televisions installed there which complemented well with the Persian interiors and atmosphere. There was a Dastarkhan, (open space) right in the middle, giving more attention to the Afghani tradition, used for sitting on the floor for a meal and to offer namaz (prayers). This place serves complimentary breads and tea with the food you order. The staff looks very polite and quiet as they speak only Afghani with bits and pieces of Hindi.
The traditional Afghan dishes are mostly meat based and consists of a lot of dried fruits and nuts. The Kebabs and tikkas are eaten with oversized naans. The Kabuli pulao or the Qabili pilaf is the national dish of Afghanistan. Slow cooked meat is served with seasoned rice topped with carrots, raisins and nuts. The pulao is rich in flavor and requires no accompaniments. The sweetness of the raisins cuts with the flavor of the meat and the sweet carrots adding a pleasant crunchy texture to the soft rice. Traditionally the meat and rice are cooked separately, the recipe I am sharing here is very simple where the rice is simmered in the rich flavors of the chicken. The rice absorbs all the flavors of the chicken, cooked together, in the pot and finally topped with carrots and raisins to finish. This pulao makes a light lovely meal at home or even can be served for a party. My love for cooking motivates me to try different cuisines and this is my humble version at making the very famous Afghani pulao which I cannot claim to be authentic but It tastes similar to the one I have had at the Afghani restaurants. I have used chicken with long grain basmati rice added in a chicken stock cube for more flavor making the dish simpler, easy yet super delicious.
- Chicken pieces – 500 gms
- Onion – 1 no. small
- Whole spices (mix of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mace and pepper corns) – few (approx. 1 Tablespoons together)
- Garlic minced – 2 to 3 pods
- Chicken stock – 1 cube
- Tomato – 1 no. small (optional).
- Chili green – 1 large
- Salt to taste
- Cashews and Raisins (as desired)
- Carrot – 1 medium sized.
- Rice – 2 cups
- Oil – 3 tablespoon
- Clarified butter (ghee) – 3 tablespoons
- Sugar –1 teaspoon.
- Water as required
- Slice onions, mince garlic and thinly slice tomato. Take a heavy bottom pan and heat oil and add in the whole spices. Add sliced onions and minced garlic and sauté lightly till it softens.
- Add chicken and the sliced tomato and keep stirring on medium high heat till the chicken turns from pink to white.
- Reduce the heat to low and add in the rice. Mix well as the rice turns opaque along with the chicken. Add in one crushed cube of chicken stock.
- Add three and a half cups of warm water to the chicken and mix well. Add in a whole green chili and adjust the seasoning by adding salt if required.
- Bring to a boil on high heat and then reduce the heat to low and close the lid.
- Allow to simmer till all the water is absorbed and the rice is done. Keep it covered and allow to rest for five to seven minutes.
- Prepare the carrots by cutting or grating into thin strips or juliennes. Take a fry pan and melt the clarified butter. Add the carrots and fry them with the nuts on a low heat by adding in sugar. Keep aside.
- Gently stir the rice and chicken together with a fork and mound onto a large serving dish. Mix with the carrots and nuts. Serve warm.
Read on before cooking.
You can use good quality basmati rice or any long grain rice to make this pulao.
Adding of tomato and stock cube is optional but it definitely adds in more flavors.
Feel free to substitute the chicken with lamb or any meat.
Chicken doesn’t have to simmer long to become tender and cooks well with rice. Use Chicken breast or thighs for a lighter dish.
Carrots should be peeled and cut into match sticks or shredded. Sugar can also be opted but gives a sweet mild taste, enhancing the flavors with the rice and chicken.