20 February 2011

Dinner Party: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan

One of the downsides of living outside of a city - and one of the things that we miss about Boston - is the lack of ethnic diversity. While there is great Mexican food in this area, you have to go to Portland for most other types. (For example: there aren't any Middle Eastern, Indian or South Asian restaurants anywhere in The Gorge. Period.)

That has never deterred us, though; we'll just do it ourselves, at home. But rather than go it alone in the wilderness, we have cultivated a cadre of similar-minded foodies and participate in ethnic food parties. Previous ethnic-themed dinners have covered Thai, Spanish, and German. For this one, we were inspired by our favorite restaurant: The Helmand, an Afghani restaurant in Cambridge, MA. (If you are ever in the Boston area, we highly recommend it.)

For our dinner party, we expanded the scope to include a few of the surrounding countries: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. We made two of our cookbooks available as inspiration: Afghan Food and Cookery and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations. We invited a few dozen friends, made a few recipes ourselves, and just let the dishes roll in.

  • Chalau Sof / Afghan style baked rice (Afghanistan)
  • Koufta Chalau / Meatballs (Afghanistan)
  • Nani Afghani / Flatbread (Afghanistan)
  • Borrani banjan / Eggplant (Afghanistan)
  • Sfiha / Arab pizza (Syria/Lebanon)
  • Helawat al Jazr / Sweet Cardamon Carrots (Iran)
  • Chelo Kebab Barg / Roasted goat (Iran)
  • Lawang e Samaruq / Mushrooms in Yogurt (Afghanistan)
  • Channa / Chickpea curry (Indian)
  • Hummus / Hummus (everywhere)
  • Chicken Jalfarezi / Chicken curry (Pakistan)
  • Achaar Chicken / Tangy curry chicken (Pakistan)
  • Naan Berenji / Persian Rice Cookies (Iran)
Interestingly, only a few of the dishes used meat, which made the vegetarians in the group very happy. There were probably a few more dishes as well that didn't get included in this list. (Most of the recipes that aren't linked are from one of the two cookbooks above.) Here was the resulting spread, in all its splendor:

We encouraged people to bring beverages as well, with the stipulation that "all drinks must comply with the local customs in these countries" (aka "think twice before bringing beer or wine"). The resulting beverage list included two kinds of chai; Ouzo that was homemade by a friend of one of the participants (technically it isn't from one of the countries indicated, but how do you turn away a homemade liquor?); and Johnny Walker with water. That last one is apparently what all the Indian men drink in the backrooms. Yes, technically outside of the indicated countries, but it's a great visual, isn't it?

We love these parties. They give people an opportunity/excuse to expand their cooking experiences, but more importantly, we all get to help eat the results.

- Mike, Corinne, and Anders