Tuesday, March 21, 2017

United Nations of Grub - Afghanistan (Kabul Kabab House)

Having been duly inspired by another blog I discovered shortly before moving to New York (in which the writer is attempting to try cuisine from as many different countries represented in the NYC metro area as possible - United Nations of Food), today I am beginning a new segment on this blog called United Nations of Grub. My goal is to take UNF's country list and periodically seek out a restaurant that's serving the representative dishes of each one. This will likely require me to travel into the city more often, but it's probably not a bad thing for me to have more excuses to leave the suburbs.

I intend to go through the list in alphabetically order - first up is Afghanistan, a country often vilified in these parts lately. As you might expect, Afghani food closely hews to the cuisines of other Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries; that is, lots of seasoned rice and grilled meats (usually in kebab form). Fortunately, I was able to track down a good Afghani restaurant in Queens, located oddly enough on the same stretch of Main Street in Flushing where you'll find a very large Chinese population and a Chinatown that rivals any I've seen in the US (that's a post for another day). Afghanistan does share a short border with China, so I suppose it's not so far-fetched; anyway, I digress.

Kabul Kabab House (42-51 Main St. in Flushing....gosh, these NYC addresses are hard to get used to) appears to have been recently remodeled. There's a grill area up front for takeout and walk-up business, plus a small dining room with about 10 tables in the back. The place was largely empty at lunchtime on the random Tuesday I dined there.

Mantoo are dumplings that are commonly found in Central Asian restaurants - the Afghan variety served here are steamed and features a stuffing of ground beef and onions.  The sauce that's been ladled atop the mantoo (called seer moss) is yogurt-based and normally contains mint, lemon juice, and garlic.  A smattering of carrots, peas, and a few dabs of tomato sauce finish off the dish, which was quite good and among the lighter versions of dumpling I can remember having.

Barg, or marinated grilled steak, is one of the house's specialties. The marinade typically contains saffron, olive oil, onions, and garlic (although they keep it close to the vest at KKH, simply referring to it as "special herbs and spices"). I opted for brown rice with my meat (something called green rice is available, alas, only on weekends), which also came with raw onions and stewed tomatoes. I tried a couple of sauces that were in bowls on the table and found them to be pretty aggressive heat-wise. My server commented that next time I come in, I should request that the barg be cooked to medium instead of medium-well; regardless, the meat was very tender and tasty.

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