The Afghan national dish is Afghani Pulao, known as Kabuli Palau or Palaw, which originates from Afghanistan. People prepare this rice and meat dish with caramelized carrots and raisins to celebrate family gatherings and special occasions.
As part of my Globe Cooking Mad series, I am sharing my humble attempt at the Central Asian country, Afghanistan's national dish, Qabili Palau. This Afghani Pulao recipe is very similar to Bedouin Lamb pilaf but with a sweeter note from fried carrots and raisins.
🍽 Afghan Cuisine
Afghan cuisine draws significant influences from Persian, Indian, and Mediterranean cultures. Their national dish, Kabuli Palau, goes by various names such as Afghani Pulao, Kabuli Palaw, or Qabili Palaw. Have you ever wondered why it is called both Kabuli and Qabili? Humaira Ghilzai shares the reason in her article!
They usually serve the staple bread known as "naan" with yoghurt-based sauces like "Mastawa" and "Borani." Vegetables are also an essential part of Afghan meals, with dishes like "Sabzi Chalaw" featuring spinach stew served with rice. Herbs such as coriander aka cilantro, mint, and dill add freshness to many dishes.
Afghan cuisine incorporates a wide array of spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, and saffron, enhancing the flavours of the dishes. Desserts often feature nuts, honey, and dried fruits, like "Sheer Khurma," a festive vermicelli pudding.
In summary, Afghan cuisine captivates with its blend of flavors, aromatic spices, and diverse culinary techniques, making it a delightful and essential part of the country's cultural identity.
- Oil: Any neutral cooking oil. I have used sunflower oil.
- Almonds: You may use store-bought sliced almonds.
- Veggies: carrots and onions
- Raisins: I have used golden raisins in these images as I ran out of black ones.
- Meat: Use mutton or lamb with bone. You may make this with chicken too.
- Ground spices: cumin powder, cardamom powder, and black pepper powder
- Basmati rice
- Whole spices: green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick
Kabuli pulao recipe consists of rice that is parboiled and then cooked in a flavour-packed meat broth and topped with meat, fried almonds and caramelized carrots and raisins.
One of my aim in cooking is to reduce dishes as I don't have a dishwasher. You may cook in multiple pans simultaneously to save time or use just two pots as I did. You can make this dish in Instant Pot too. Scroll down for a detailed recipe card.
I started in my pressure cooker with oil:
- Fried the almonds and removed and kept it aside.
- Fried the carrots and then the raisins and again removed and kept them aside.
- Browned the onions and meat along with spices.
- Pressure-cooked the meat with water.
- Removed the meat and kept it aside.
I have to warn you, that you will end up having a delightful afternoon siesta after enjoying a plate of Afghani pulao. We did. Thank God it was a weekend! End the meal with a delicious Dried Fig and Rice Pudding!
Kabuli Palau was initially consumed by upper-class Kabul families as they could afford the ingredients. Over time as the people of Afghanistan became wealthier, this dish became more common. So, the name Qabili Palau was coined. The Dari word Qabil - means well accomplished, indicating that only a skilled chef can truly balance the various flavours of this dish.
The national dish of Afghanistan is "Kabuli Pulao," also known as "Afghan Pulao" or "Kabuli Palaw."
In the traditional preparation of Afghani Pulao, cooks use long-grain Basmati rice, tender pieces of meat (usually lamb), and a blend of aromatic spices. They cook the dish with onions, carrots, and raisins, or they sweeten it with sugar, resulting in a unique sweet and savoury taste. Occasionally, Kabuli Pulao is garnished with nuts like almonds or pistachios.
Here are some traditional Afghan side dishes that go well with Afghani Pulao:
- Salata: A salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint.
- Mastawa: A yoghurt-based sauce with meat and vegetables.
- Borani: Another yoghurt-based side dish with sautéed spinach, eggplant, or pumpkin served with garlic-infused yoghurt on top.
- Naan: Traditional Afghan bread, like naan or Afghan naan, is perfect for scooping up the rice and sauces.
- Mantu: If you're looking to add more variety, you can serve Afghan dumplings filled with spiced ground meat and onions, topped with yoghurt and a tomato-based sauce. These side dishes not only enhance the flavours of Afghani Pulao but also offer a wholesome dining experience, giving you a taste of the rich and diverse Afghan culinary culture.
Looking for other recipes using mutton or lamb pieces? Try these:
Afghani Pulao | Kabuli Palaw
- 1 Pressure cooker
- 1 Pot
For Almonds, Carrots and Raisins Toppings
- 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- ¼ cup almonds blanched, peeled and sliced
- 2 large carrot chopped into thin batons
- ⅓ cup black raisins
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil if required
- 2 medium-sized red onions diced finely
- 500 grams mutton or lamb with bone
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ¾ teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 1 cup water
- salt to taste
To Par-boil the Rice
- 1¼ cup basmati rice rinsed and soaked for 10 mins
- 5 cups water
- 1 green cardamom
- 2 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- salt to taste
Prepare the Almonds, Carrots and Raisins
- Heat oil in a pressure cooker or pot in which you would want to cook the meat.3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- Fry the sliced almonds until golden brown and remove using a slotted spoon and keep them aside.¼ cup almonds
- Add the carrot batons and sauté until wilted and darkens in colour. Stir in the raisins and saute until they are all plumped up. You may sprinkle sugar to caramelize them. Remove the carrot and raisins with the slotted spoon and keep them aside2 large carrot, ⅓ cup black raisins, 1 tablespoon sugar
Prepare the Meat Broth
- Add more cooking oil if required and fry the onions until almost browned.1 tablespoon cooking oil, 2 medium-sized red onions
- Add the meat pieces and sear them until browned.500 grams mutton or lamb
- Add the spices and salt and cook until all the moisture is released and almost dried.1 teaspoon cumin powder, ¾ teaspoon cardamom powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper powder, salt to taste
- Add a cup of water and pressure cook for 15 to 20 mins on low to medium flame or until the meat is cooked through.1 cup water
- Use a slotted spoon and remove the cooked meat pieces and keep them aside.
- Keep the broth with all the onions aside for later use.
Prepare the Afghani Rice
- Take the deep pot in which you plan to assemble the rice and add a lot of water, whole spices and salt.5 cups water, 1 green cardamom, 2 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick, salt to taste
- Keep the flame on high and bring the water to a full boil.
- Add the drained rice carefully and continue on a high flame to bring back the water to a full boil.1¼ cup basmati rice
- Stir and boil until the rice is half cooked or doubled in size. (approx 2 to 3 mins)
- Drain the rice into a colander and put the parboiled rice back into the pot.
- Reduce the flame to the lowest and slide a flat pan (heat diffuser) under the pot.
- Carefully fold in the meat broth using a rubber spatula so that all of the rice is coated.
- Place the meat pieces on one side and add the carrot raisins on another side.
- Cover the pot with foil or a clean cloth and then cover with the pot lid. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Open the pot and remove the meat pieces and the carrot raisins mix and keep them aside separately.
- Add the rice to a serving plate and top with the meat and more rice.
- Garnish with the prepared carrots and raisins and fried almonds.
- Serve this delicious Afghani Pulao with yoghurt and salad.
The next country on my list to cook is Albania!