Kabuli Palau of Afghanistan

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With difficulty, I search for the strings that connect me to this place in the world, but I keep tripping on that blood-red rope of war.

Words, like people, carry weight. Not in the literal sense, but abstractly, sometimes deemed “emotional baggage.” I am not alone when I say that Afghanistan, representing a real place and real people, is a word that holds confusion and feels heavy indeed. Maybe more accurately, it produces an emptiness from our lack of understanding, filled in ever so slyly by fear itself. Alas, isn’t this always the formula concerning the unknown?

I try to tease out these tangles by researching, but it only confuses me more. Afghanistan isn’t easily defined culturally because its people are primarily nomadic and tribal. Add the last fifty years of upheaval and war unleashed on the nation, and you feel hopelessness and frustration, the perfect storm for giving up.

Despite that struggle, it takes me no effort to promote this dish. Cuisine saves the day, again, freely creating the connection I long for in this project. But to narrow the gap between me and Afghanistan, the first step was to admit confusion and lack of understanding. I’m okay with admitting that. It is better than default judgment. The second step: enjoy this fabulous meal with good company.

Kabuli palau is a dish with three components. Chicken, rice, and a carrot relish may seem standard and overdone, but as usual, there is more to this dish than what meets the eye. Sweet carrots, cooked with raisins and crunchy almonds, create a delectable side. Salty chicken with a crisp skin is always classic. Rice that is soft and flavorful, too. The recipe I found creates simple elements into an outstanding, complementary meal. (Bonus, it’s also easy to make.)

Besides the meal itself being so special, we also had guests. Friends of Spencer’s joined us for the meal, making the experience so much more memorable and fun. Check out the reviews below!

Quick Quotes

Spencer: An awesome dish with awesome company; golden raisins started to grow on me.

Miguel: Great food for thought.

Ruby: Carrots, raisins, and seeds, there’s nothing more that I need.

Teresa: I love the carrots and raisins and almonds. The caramelized onions always put it over the top for me.

Ingredient List

  • basmati rice
  • chicken thighs
  • yellow onion diced
  • olive oil or vegetable oil divided
  •  salt
  • chicken broth
  • carrots peeled and julienned
  • black raisins
  • slivered almonds
  • sugar
  • water
  • ground cumin
  • ground cardamom
  • ground black pepper


Trivial Trifles

  • The capital of Afghanistan is Kabul
  • The official languages are Pashto and Dari
  • To explore Afghanistan culture, here are some great online resources I found.
    • An awesome website, Afghan Culture Unveiled, by social entrepreneur Humaira Ghilzai. Includes all things culture, cuisine, and advocacy for Afghan women
    • This website reads more like an encyclopedia; a broader overview of the history of Afghanistan
  • Mohammed Zahir Shah was the last king of Afghanistan; he reigned from 1933-1973, and was known for trying to modernize the country until he was overthrown by a former prime minister. He lived in exile in Rome until 2002, returning after the end of the Taliban. He was known as the “Father of the Nation” until his death in 2007
  • In the early 2000s, Afghanistan was viewed as one of the most dangerous places for a woman due to the high maternal mortality rates
  • Afghanistan culture can be broadly divided into the following cultures: Pashtun, Persian, and Turkic. There are an estimated 60 major Pashtun tribes, and as many as 2-3 million Afghan nomads



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