Vibrantly photographed and richly detailed with historical, cultural, and culinary context, Parwana is a significant addition to the English-language body of work on Afghan food, as well as an appealing cookbook.
Author Durkhanai Ayubi is the daughter of Afghan refugees who settled in Australia and eventually opened a pair of restaurants. Her family’s story, and Afghanistan’s story, run through this book, inseparable in many ways from greater regional conflicts and the ambitions of world powers. But also evident is the mission Ayubi attributes to her mother: “That we preserve the customs, flavors and essence of our Afghan cuisine, and also share it.”
Located as it is along the ancient Silk Road and influenced by historical empires such as Persia and the Moghuls, Afghanistan developed food displaying kinships to many cuisines. Ayubi seems to relish tracing connections like those of mantu, a steamed dumpling from Central Asia that was spread by the Mongols as widely as Turkey (where it is called manti) and and Korea (mandoo). Anyone who thinks that in knowing Persian or Indian food they have a clear handle on Afghan is likely to miss out on many delights.
For example, kichiri qoroot, a sticky rice dish with mung beans and mini kofta, served with a reconstituted yogurt; kayayee gosfand, a pan-cooked lamb kebab that is seasoned with a multi-spice mix that varies from household to household, cook to cook; aush, a thick vegetable soup served with knife-cut noodles that Ayubi attributes to Chinese and Mongolian influences.
We’re also grateful that the author and publisher have chosen to provide recipe names in English, Pashto, and the Pashto script. All around, this is an impressive and engrossing book.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.