Warmth of Afghani Cuisine
My journey has led me to this Afghan restaurant in Houston where I am told is the best you can find of this cuisine. Featured in many food network shows and quite popular for serving authentic afghan food, I had to visit this place before the world ends. No pun intended!
It is The Afghan Village Restaurant. Visited this place around noon for an early lunch and the complex is laden with afghan supermarkets and antique shops which makes it even more genuine. Without any further ado, I barged myself into the restaurant and was astonished with the place I was directed to by the server.
How authentic can it get?
Well, you can still be seated on the plain ol' chairs alongside the tables in this restaurant, but never would I miss out an opportunity to eat in this setting. We got ourselves plonked in the plush pillowy mattresses with a cushion to rest upon. The server came ahead with the menus eventually and we ordered few of the traditional Afghani dishes right away.
First up, we got the traditional drink of Afghani culture.
It is known as Dogh. It is a drink made out of fresh homemade yogurt and the creamy texture it adorns is a bliss for foodies. It tastes quite refreshing and there is a tinge of spices they add to this drink. Also, this drink was sweet and rich in flavor. You also get a savory option of this drink. Chugged it down in no time.
I got my first appetizer for the day which is Bouranee Baunjan. Served alongside fresh Tandoori Naan, this is a curry made of eggplants infused with seasonings well known to Afghan culture and fresh yogurt added on top. Quite a vibrant plate!
The bread was right out of the oven and paired alarmingly well with this dish. The creamy yogurt paired with the spicy stew is just the perfect start I would have wished for. The gravy was not too greasy and the addition of the yogurt balanced the spice of it. I would definitely recommend this dish.
It is Kabob Murgh. Impressive and radiant presentation. A bed of saffron rice topped with tomatoes, raisins, cilantro and spices and surrounded by chunks of boneless chicken. Ah, and a wedge of lime!
The chicken is cooked on a skewer in an oven and is tossed right onto my plate. I couldn't wait to taste this one.
At the first bite, the rice has a distinct touch of flavor to it with the sweetness of raisins and the tang from the spices however, the chicken is quite bland. It was cooked perfectly as the meat was quite moist and airy but the seasoning was totally off. I would skip this dish definitely.
The Qabuli Palau. Had my heart onto it ever since I entered, as the national dish of Afghanistan should surely be tried. Served alongside the same saffron rice as the earlier dish, this plate comes with a huge chunk of lamb shank which is marinated overnight and cooked for quite a long time. Also, served with a cilantro and green chili hot sauce.
I just had a spoon to eat this and I was perplexed on how to eat the meat off the bone with it. Rest assured, the meat just fell off the bone as a scoop of a melting ice cream. I have never literally seen anything like this, let alone taste it. Such succulent lamb was just for the history but the fact that I was going to be a part of it sent my senses tingling to the roof.
Dipped with the hot sauce, the rice and the tender lamb, I went right into it. A divine feeling, praise the lord!
I am quite fortunate to be having this meal as one can only witness it by experiencing the dish in person. Well marinated and cooked until a perfect temperature, I have only scooped all the meat off the bone throughout my meal. Such a soft and well cooked meat is worth tons of accolades.
Can't get over it, but let's move ahead with the next order.
Tried my luck with Chicken Karahi. This dish was basically a traditional stew cooked with tomatoes, ginger and garlic with tender cuts of chicken. I still had the rice which was served with the previous two dishes. So, I went ahead and had the curry with them.
The chicken is cooked decent as I see a touch of dryness but still is not overtly bad. Coming to the flavors, I am not sure why the dishes presented with chicken are not as good as the others. The curry as with rice is quite bland and the curry is not creamy but rather watery and a bit greasy. Nothing exemplary about this and I can vouch for disregarding this dish altogether.
After a sheer disappointment with the previous dish, I moved on with my final entree.
Voila! It is Lamb Karahi. Look at the difference between this and the latter entree. I was astonished. A perfect color, flavors penetrating all over and neatly garnished. This dish surely does impress by a mere glance.
This stew consists of tomatoes, ginger and garlic as well, cooked in a huge pan with lots of herbs and spices. Couldn't wait but to pounce upon.
Anything they prepare which involves Lamb is surreal. A stark contrast between the previous entree. This is the best curry I have tasted. Period!
The red meat is so tender and full-flavored that my mouth was watering all the while I was eating it. The overnight marination does wonders to this meat and the dishes show that. Please try this, guys! You are bound to thank me.
Finally, a heartwarming gesture from the server as he presented us a kettle of their special Afghan Tea with Jaggery at the end of our meal.
Left it to simmer in the kettle for a while as the cardamom pods did their magic pairing with the other spices. Once done, I had a sip of it along with the coarse brown sugar it accompanied with. The best way to end a meal. The tea is so flavorful and the sweetness of the sugar paired remarkably well. A must try!
This Afghan Village sure did find a native in me!
6413 Hillcroft St Houston, TX 77081
Value For Money: 8.5/10