Afghan food is all about flavour

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Mum’s recipe daal, naan and Banjan boranee.

“[In Afghan cuisine] vegetables are key and the combo of spices frequently include cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, chilli, coriander, mint and black pepper,” writes dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON.

WHENEVER I head to a restaurant and see “chef’s special” or “Mum’s recipe” I go on high alert.

Wendy Johnson.

On our visit to Bamiyan in Lonsdale Street, Braddon, we ordered a banquet and were greeted by some of these specialty creations, all with intriguing flavour combinations. 

Bamiyan is a modern Afghan restaurant. It’s named after a city in the Hindu Kush mountain range and the restaurant has been featured on the mouth-watering SBS show “Food Safari”. 

We weren’t too familiar with Afghan cuisine but soon discovered, with great delight, that it’s all about flavour. Vegetables are key and the combo of spices frequently include cumin, cinnamon, cardamon, chilli, coriander, mint and black pepper. Bamiyan’s dishes reflect the ethnic and geographic diversity of the area, which no doubt attracted SBS. 

Banquets are available, including a vegetarian option with three entrees and three mains for a reasonable $35 per person. We opted for banquet #2, with four entrees and three mains ($42 per person).

We were on a roll with dishes by the chef, Haseeb Miazad (“Michael”) and his mum. 

Mantu dumplings… perfect parcels bursting with flavour, the lamb moist and tasty. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

The Mantu (lamb) steamed dumplings were perfect parcels bursting with flavour, the lamb moist and tasty.

Mum’s recipe daal… looked and tasted sensational, with special spices and herbs, all pounded with crispy bits of fried garlic. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

We all adore daal and “Mum’s recipe” didn’t disappoint. It looked and tasted sensational – yellow lentils cooked with special spices and herbs, all pounded with crispy bits of fried garlic. 

Lamb koobideh chargrill and chicken chargrill… perfect. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

Chargrilling is a wonderful way to prepare food, enhancing flavours in an exciting way. The chargrilled chicken and lamb were perfect. The chicken thigh fillet, which we love for the way the cut absorbs flavour, was marinated with lemon, herbs and more of those secret spices and then simply chargrilled, which is so often all you need for extra flavour. The lamb mince was marinated with onions and herbs and also simply chargrilled. 

Banjan boranee… fried eggplant cooked in tomato gravy sauce. No wonder it’s a chef’s top pick. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

One chef’s favourite (and we can see why) is the Banjan boranee. This traditional Afghan dish features fried eggplant cooked in tomato gravy sauce finished with onion, tomato and capsicum, topped with yoghurt and mint. It’s no wonder it’s a chef’s top pick.

All Bamiyan’s dishes were loaded with colour and more colour, and flavour and more flavour. We didn’t hold back in soaking up all sauces with fresh, soft Afghan naan and fluffy Kabuli pallow rice, another traditional dish with sweetness added by caramelised carrots and sultanas, and crunch from a dose of almond nuts. 

Bamiyan’s wine list is reasonably priced. We enjoyed the La Vieille Ferme, a 2019 French wine produced in the sunny region of the southern Rhône.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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