For our most recent match on The World Cup of Food, pitting Afghan cuisine against Israeli, we tested the merits of each with a meatball soup. Afghan mashawa is a stew of legumes and small beef or lamb meatballs spiced subtly with cinnamon. Israeli gondi is a chicken soup with chicken and garbanzo bean flour dumplings, with a flavor a little like hummus. We liked one soup more than the other and have chosen one cuisine to advance in our competition at the other’s expense.
When we were browsing around, trying to figure out what we would feature next now that Afghanistan has come around again on The World Cup of Food, a description for a recipe on the blog Afghan Culture Unveiled piqued our interest: “Afghan Chili.” The dish was called mashawa (recipe follows), and further research revealed that it goes by a variety of descriptions, like “lentil soup,” “meatball soup,” or “spicy beans.” Recipes we found in books and online showed a variety of methods and ingredients, and we were eager to produce our own.
Burma is a fascinating land, isolated for political reasons from the rest of the world for decades and having developed many unique culinary traditions found nowhere else on Earth. Their national dish, mohinga, somehow manages to create something rich and delicious out of catfish and shrimp paste and gave us valuable insight into the cuisine of the country.
When we first had the idea for The World Cup of Food, we quickly decided that Afghan cuisine was one that neither of us has had any experience at all with yet we knew we needed to try it. Perhaps it is the mysterious allure of a region that has had so much turmoil for so many decades. Perhaps it is the mysterious allure of Kabul Afghan Cuisine in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, a highly regarded and longstanding establishment with the famous National Geographic “Afghan Girl” photograph painted as a mural on one of its exterior walls that has long captivated our imaginations. Whatever it was, we are finally ready to dive in to Afghan food.