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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Afghan Qabali Palau

One of the mainstay meals you are given when you get here is their rice palau or palaw. Sometimes it can be called Kabuli palaw or Qabili palaw or just plain palau. It consists of usually long grain rice mixed with lentils, rasins, carrots and a meat, usually lamb and sometimes nuts like almonds. It is considered the national dish.

For me it is served with a side dish of fresh vegetables, their round, flat bread and hot tea. In Tajikistan when I was there it is a similar dish made with rice called plov. Where I am, close to the Uzbek, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan borders, the population is about 30% Tajik by ethnicity.

Side dish of fresh vegetables
Qabili Palau is widely regarded as Afghanistan's national dish. It is best described as rice cooked in a broth-like sauce, then baked in an oven and topped with julienne carrots, raisins and chopped nuts. If meat is added, it's usually lamb, chicken or beef; the meat will be covered by the rice.
The Ingredients:
3 cups Basmati Rice 
10 lamb pieces 
2 yellow or brown onions, peeled and chopped 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1 cup chicken broth 
2 small carrots 
1 cup of raisins 
2 tablespoons ground cumin 
1.5 table spoons ground cardamom 
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper 
12 cups of water (estimate - use your judgment!) 
Salt (according to your tastes) 
The Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Chop and saute some onions in a pan over high heat until the onion is a nice brown; this should take about 5-6 minutes. Don't burn the onions!
If the lamb pieces are too big, cut them into tiny pieces.
  • Add the lamb into the pan and sprinkle with salt
  • Cook the meat over medium-to-high heat for about 6 minutes, turning occasionally to get an even golden brown on all sides.
  • At this point in time, the onions will start to caramelize nicely, and there will be a nice, thick sauce.
  • Add about a quarter cup of broth, then continue stirring until the liquid dries up, at which point put another quarter cup in again, and repeat until you've used all the broth.
  • This really gives the meat that extra flavor! Once the thick sauce is truly good and going, bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and let the whole thing simmer for around 10 minutes. Then, remove the meat from the brown broth, and set aside (keep warm).
  • Stir in the ground cumin (2 teaspoons), ground cardamom (1.5 teaspoons) and the crushed black pepper (0.5 teaspoon) into the broth and continue to cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.
  • This allows the spices to get their flavor into the broth.
Immerse the rice completely in a bowl of water, and drain in a colander. Repeat this step a few times, until the water that you're draining becomes clear. Meanwhile, cook the rice in any sort of pot that has a fitted lid. This is where the 12 cups of water come in. Put some salt into the water before cooking the rice, so that your rice will just have that hint of saltiness to it when cooked. Cook the rice until it is just ever so slightly crunchy (nearly cooked), then strain any remaining water. Put the rice into a cooking pot, add the prepared broth. Make sure the broth and the rice mix well and add the meat pieces on top. Cover the pot with foil, and then with the lid.
Bake the rice for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
Once you've put the rice into the oven, julienne the carrots, and do a quick stir-fry with them, along with raisins. You'll be putting them into the pot, but you want to be stir-frying them just enough so that they're slightly cooked, but do not overdo it, as you will be putting them into the pot, and let the cooking process complete in the oven. Set aside.
Once the 20 minutes have passed, take it out, and put the julienne carrots and raisins into the pot.
Reduce the oven's temperature down to 250 degrees, and let it cook for another 20 minutes.
Once that's done, take the pot out from the oven.
Arrange the meat pieces on a large platter. Then cover it with the rice. Make sure that the carrots and raisins are evenly spread in the rice; you don't want them to be just piled all up in one spot (it's all about aesthetics!).

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/5449166


  1. How exciting! Thank you for sharing this recipe - it looks very tasty, especially all those fresh vegetables. I think food is such a great way to break barriers and make friends, even with those who don't speak your language. I also like that you mention the different ethnicities you've encountered. It's easy for us in the U.S. to forget there are many different groups who make up Afghanistan.

  2. Sounds and looks really, really tasty!