People always ask me if ingredients for Afghan recipes are hard to find. The answer to this is always a resounding “no”. While there are a small handful of unusual ingredients in Afghan cooking, the great majority of what’s needed can be found in your neighborhood supermarket such as Safeway, Ralph’s, or Whole Foods. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area has many advantages (house prices are not one of them) including accessibility to ethnic grocery stores. However, you can access a large selection of more exotic ingredients online at www.sadaf.com.I have not used this site since I purchase Sadaf brands in my local ethnic market, but I have friends who rely on it for specialty ingredients.
Here is a peek into our pantry with a breakdown of the ingredients most commonly used in Afghan cooking. We hope this will make it fun and easy for you to try our Afghan recipes.
- Herbs and Spices
In Afghanistan spices are typically bought in bulk and ground as needed.But as busy moms and home cooks, we buy most spices already ground and packaged.Below is the list of the most commonly used herbs and spices:
Ginger, fresh and dried
Mint, fresh and dried
Chilies, fresh and dried
Nigella seeds (tiny black, slightly bitter seeds; available in specialty markets/mail order businesses)
Beans and Peas
Legumes are used as an extender for kebabs and other meat dishes since they are far less expensive than meat. You will find them fried and salted as a snack or coated with sugar to have with tea.
The Onion Family
Practically every savory Afghan dish is made with onions in some form. Most common is something called piaz e surkh kada, which is finely minced onion cooked in plenty of oil until deeply browned, lending a rich and mellow flavor to meats and vegetables. Afghans also use the “juice” of the onion, squeezing out the liquid and distributing it in ground meat for kebabs.
Gandana (similar in appearance to leeks; available in specialty markets.Leeks and/or green onions can be substituted)
Afghans are very particular about their rice; it is the centerpiece of nearly every meal. Using the right rice and cooking it properly are considered essentials for a good Afghan cook. We recommend the least processed Basmati rice you are able to find.
Long grain rice
Short grain rice
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